That’s why this past Thursday I walked into my kitchen armed with no less than a powerdrill, speedbor bits, hammer and towel. It was time to get to cracking… coconuts open, that is. I thought I’d share the experience and provide what I learned, and provide a few instructions based on that.
I picked up the Mexican coconuts from New Seasons, a local Organic, Bulk, local, but everything else you could want kind of store that truly deserves its reputation as the friendliest store in town. In all of my efforts, I do what I can to stay local, organic, green, and so on, but since Mexico is about as local as coconuts get, I’m fine with forgiving myself on this one.
So, two coconuts and some tools. The idea in mind is to have fresh coconut cream for the Painkillers at the May 20th Tiki night at Teardrop. I loves me some Coco Lopez, but it’s always interesting (and often better) to make an ingredients from scratch. So, I do a bit of research online on making coconut milk, then coconut cream. Nothing to it, so, time to get through that husk!
1 quart cream
White Cane Sugar
2 containers (2 cups or up to a liter, coconut water volume is variable)
1 paring knife
1 towel, as can fully envelope the coconut.
2 Pots (3 or more quarts each)
(optional) Food Processor
(optional) 1 Power drill with Speedbor
The first challenge with a coconut is just cracking through it. While a Powerdrill with Speedbor is most effective, I found a little trick on this video on the youtube.
This is an effective method, but two holes makes draining the coconut water oh-so-much faster. I can’t recommend the Irwin Speedbor MAX bits enough for ripping holes through things. Either way, stab a hole through the weak eye with your knife or drill. If you have the powerdrill, a hole in the top is recommended for speedy drainage. Drain the coconut water into a container, figure about 8-12 ounces per coconut. I keep two containers out so I can run the coconut water through a filter, but you can use or toss at your discretion. It can be quite refreshing, though a bit “green” for my palate.
So, water drained, it’s time for a bit of the smashy-smashy. Take your Douglas Adams approved towel, and wrap the coconut as tight as you can, to avoid shrapnel. Just a side note, the towel will get pretty nasty, so your mother’s finest Egyptian Cotton towels are not recommended. Place the coconut on a sturdy, hardy, and nigh unbreakable surface (tile: NO, crappy OCB with laminate countertop: double-Yes), and have at it. As your Sensei (or spouse) might say, it’s all about the follow through. Aim past the coconut, or your hammer might just bounce right back at you. It’ll take a few good smashes. Feel so that you’ve got no pieces bigger than 1/4 of the entire coconut or so. Unwrap the towel, and PRESTO! A giant mess!
Here comes the two part nightmare. These are the worst parts of the process, so get some tunes playing in the background, and a Mai Tai by your side. First, inside the husk (woody) is the white nut meat, which can be separated from the husk, but with some great difficulty. Here’s where a sturdy paring knife comes into play. My personal favorite is my Calphalon Contemporary Cutlery 4-1/2-Inch Paring Knife, which I’ve grown quite fond of, but your knifestyle may vary. The key in separating the meat from the husk is leverage, so use the knife to tuck between the meat and husk and pry away the meat. It should come off in a decent hunk if you take it slow.
So, now we’ve got a big bunch of white coconut meat, still with some of that hard Endosperm clinging voraciously to it. Here’s Hell’s half-acre, where it’s time to prep some ice water for your knuckles, and go to town. There are two methods you can use to get the brown stuff off of the white coconut meat. The first, is to grate. A cheap but sturdy hand-held grater, such as the CHARM grater from IKEA. I’ve gone through enough Microplanes already. They’re great (HA!), but a touch on the delicate side. The second path, which I chose, is to do as the knife is designed, and pare, skin, peel, somehow get that layer of brown off of our precious white gold. There’s a certain spot in the meat that’s just right for this, still tough, but just below the brown it’s a touch easier. For two nuts, this took me roughly an hour and a half, not moving with a sense of too much purpose.
Finally, the meat is all out, crisp and clean and white. Throw the meat in a stainer and give it a rinse with cool water. Now, if you’ve grated it, you’re already ahead a step. If you pared, like me, you’ll want to throw the coconut meat into a Food Processor for a bit to get the pieces nice and small. You could also use a Mandolin, but since my own is a pain in the tuches, I went for the fast chop. You just have to get the coconut shredded up a bit to yield maximum surface area. Finally, the coconut is prepped, and on to making the cream!
So, throw the Coconut plus 1 quart of cream (per coconut) into the pot, heat gently to a rolling boil, then let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Take the cream off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Line the strainer with two layers of cheese cloth and place the strainer over another large pot or bowl to catch the cream in. Slowly pour the cream and coconut into the strainer, and use the cheesecloth to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. The coconut shreds can be put aside for toasting, baking, or other nefarious purposes.
So, now that the Coconut Cream is complete, it’s time to add that to some sugar and make some Coco Lopez-style Cream of Coconut! Just add an even amount of White Cane Sugar to the Coconut Cream, bring to a rolling boil while stirring. It’s done when the liquid starts to yellow a bit, and is totally smooth and not gritty with sugar granules. Let it cool, bottle it, and you’ve got yourself some Cream of Coconut!
This yield just over two quarts per coconut, which is a hell of a lot of coconut cream. The good news is, this stuff freezes like a dream, and reheats with no damage whatsoever. So far, I haven’t had the issue of it separating, such as with Coco Lopez.
So, get out your best Chi-Chi, Painkiller, and Piña Colada recipes, because this stuff will last awhile. My personal favorite use for this is the Coconaut, from Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log. Quick and easy, and suited for most palates, it’s a great party pleaser.
Done this yourself and got additional hints and tips? Leave a comment! I’ll be in the back with a bottle of Pusser’s and some Pineapple Juice…