recipe #13, and given instructions on how to open them as well. Starting today I'll expand on the topic with several coconut-themed recipes.
Let's begin with a wonderful refreshing drink, simple chilled coconut water. The coconut water is the liquid inside the young coconut before it matures, and is enjoyed in many tropical countries--for me, mostly that means Brazil and Ghana. It is found both in young green coconuts, and the more common brown-skinned ones available in grocery stores in North America. It has become something of a fad drink recently in the U.S., where its health benefits are increasingly being exalted and it is hailed as a sports, anti-aging wonder drink. It is available in canned form, but is easy to obtain directly from a coconut. Locally, a fresh (brown-haired) coconut costs about $2. If you can get a fresh green coconut, so much the better. However, a brown one will also provide coconut cream, coconut milk, and coconut fiber for baking.
Recipe #54 Refreshing Chilled Coconut Water
Chill a fresh coconut in the refrigerator if you want to drink the coconut water immediately when you remove it. Of course, if you have a straw, a spoon, and a fresh young green coconut, all you need to do is whack off the top of the coconut (not as simple as it sounds without a machete), insert a straw, and enjoy. Use a spoon or a piece of the shell to scrape the soft gelatinous substance inside and eat it straight from the coconut.
First, assemble some newspaper; a hammer; a sharp clean object like an ice pick, nail or screwdriver [alternatively, I've heard a corkscrew also works]; a measuring cup or similar cup that holds at least 1 cup of liquid; and a fine mesh strainer that will fit over the cup. Remember when you buy your coconut to shake several of them first: the more liquid sloshing around inside, the better. I had to go to two stores before I found one I liked for this blog posting.
Alternatively, if you prefer you can use the coconut water in making your own coconut cream and coconut milk to further use in recipes for things like coconut rice (recipe #56) or a coconut smoothie (recipe #57), both forthcoming recipes in the next day or two.
Recipe #55: Coconut Cream and Coconut milk
Coconut milk has many uses. Some people (like my daughter Abena) with cow's milk allergies may find it helpful to prepare coconut milk that they can use as a substitute. It is also a wonderful rich addition to rice or some stews.
There are several ways to prepare coconut milk. In earlier years, I laboriously grated the coconut, poured boiling water or it, then strained it. Nowadays, it's much easier to enlist the help of a good blender, if you have one.
Let's return to the coconut above after draining out the coconut water. I assume you've already found a hard surface to spread out the newspapers on (usually the patio or cement garage floor for me). Begin hitting the coconut with the hammer until it breaks open, then keep hitting it until much of the hard outer shell has broken off from the meat. Carefully use a table knife to pry off the rest of the shell.
Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and twist and squeeze it until as much of the liquid is removed as possible. This is your first, and richest coconut milk/cream mixture. Pour it into a jar. If you were raised to be thrifty (like me), you
Freeze the coconut chaff for use in baking to add flavor and fiber.
If you put the 2 jars in the refrigerator you'll see the coconut cream rise to the top. The first batch of coconut milk will have the most cream. In cooking, the cream may be used like any cream, or you can shake or mix the cream to add it into the milk.