While visiting Thailand in February, I watched enthusiastic 9 and 10-
year-old children sitting on mats, grating coconut the traditional Thai way at the organic cooking school I co-founded in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand. I thought to myself, if they can do it, why can’t adults?
Making fresh coconut cream and milk is more time consuming than going to the store to buy canned coconut cream and opening it. However, if you are serious about cooking and eating real Thai food, or if you want to eat healthfully of food with no preservatives, or are concerned about the environment, making coconut cream and milk from scratch is the way to go. In case you don’t already know, one 16 oz. canned coconut cream contains pasteurized cream from at least 6 coconuts plus flour as thickener. Over 90% of the calories are from saturated fat. Do you really want to eat those humongous amount of fats in one sitting?
Making fresh coconut cream and milk is not as difficult as you might think. The most challenging part is buying coconuts that are not spoiled. There are instructions on how to pick good coconuts and recipes on how to make coconut cream and milk in my cookbook, Cracking the Coconut. Here is a similar and more up-to-date version.
The reason for my using 4 to 5 coconuts is that the coconuts sold in the markets in America tend to be very old and small coconuts with thinner meat.
Makes about 1 cup coconut cream and 2 cups coconut milk
4 to 5 coconuts
3 cups very warm water
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Use a Phillips screw driver and a hammer to pierce through all 3 indentations ("eyes") on one side of the coconut. Drain out the liquid and use it to water plants. Do not drink this water; it will give you a stomach ache! Put the coconut in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and cool until you can touch them.
Take the coconuts outdoor and break them apart with a hammer. Drape your hand with a dish towel and hold on to a piece of coconut. Use a paring knife to pry it loose from the hard shell. It should come off easily. Repeat with the rest of the coconuts. Peel away the hard brown part of the coconut with a vegetable peeler. Wash and dry the coconut meat well. Slice into small cubes. Put them in a blender and add the water. Blend until the liquid turn milky white.
Drape a piece of cheese cloth over a fine mesh strainer. Put on top of a bowl. Pour the pulverized coconut and liquid into the cheese cloth. Gather and extract as much of liquid as you can. Let the liquid sit in the bowl for 10 minutes. (In the meantime, don’t wash your hands just yet. Instead, massage your hands and cuticles with the remnants of the coconut. Your hands will turn soft and silky.)
Use a spoon to skim off the thick cream on top. You should have one cup of thick heavy cream and the rest is the coconut milk.
You can freeze them by putting the coconut cream and milk in separate zip-lock bags. Lay them flat on a plate or tray and put in the freezer. Thaw when ready to use. Frozen coconut cream and milk will keep for at least a couple of months.
Note: Dry-roast pulverized coconut in a large skillet over medium-low heat until golden. Store in a container with a lid. Use as a garnish for salads or desserts. You can also save a portion of it and mix with 5 to 6 drops of either Mandarin orange essential oil or lavender essential oil and use it to massage your hair and body before showering.
Store the coconut shells and when you grill, use them as starters for your fire. Dry the hard brown peels in the sun and store them with the shells. When adding to hot charcoals, they give off the most wonderful fragrance and will turn ordinary grilled meat, fish or vegetables into heavenly tasting dishes.
Elements Of Life: Important Information Update!
My newest book,The Elements of Life comes with a wheel that helps you determine your home element(s). Unfortunately, there are mistakes printed on the back of the wheel. Until the publisher can correct them, these are the right dates:
March 8, 1998
March 17, 2003
March 6, 2004
March 8, 1998
March 17, 2003
March 6, 2004