How to make coconut milk
Learn with us about one of the essential ingredients in French Polynesia
The shining star under the tropical fruits and the definition of holidays. The coconut represents the island life like nothing else. There are many ways to make use of this extraordinary fruit but what is probably the most desired substance to get out of it, is this delicious coconut milk we all know, love and use for our food. But how does the real process look like? Go ahead and follow me on how to make coconut milk.
The process of producing coconut milk can take quite some time if you are not used to the techniques that I will explain in the following steps. Besides that, it is also a physically very demanding action that will make you sweat for sure. But as you know if you ever tried fresh coconut milk, the result is more than worth it. So let’s dive right into how you can make your own coconut milk!
Step 1 – Select the right coconut
The first thing we have to do is of course choosing a coconut for our milk. Therefore we have to know that coconuts are a little special compaired to other fruits because we can harvest them in different states of their development. For the purpose of producing coconut milk it is important that the coconut is old enough so that the inner “flesh” is thick and has the right consistency. If you would pick them right from the tree for example, which means they are still young, what you would find inside is a really soft and glibbery substance similar to jelly. It is delicious of course but not what we are aiming for.
Conveniently the coconut we are searching for is already a bit older and usually fallen off the tree. That makes it a lot easier in most of the cases as you don’t have to climb the tree or must be scared of the coconut dropping on our head while harvesting. Well we should still be careful of course!
So basically we can just look around if there are lonely coconuts lying next to the trees. Still, there are some factors we have to consider when choosing our coconut.
1. Choose a decent size – The bigger the better! We want to get the most out of our coconut.
2. Make sure it is still fresh – Does it look wasted? No? To be sure, we can shake the coconut to check if there is still water inside, which is usually a good sign.
3. It shouldn’t germinate already – Is there already the plant breaking through the skin? Then the coconut is already too far in its process and maybe not the best choice for coconut milk.
Below we can see examples of what we just talked about.
Step 2 – Remove the outer skin
Our next step is probably the most exhausting one as we have to remove the outer layer of the coconut. But with the right technique we can remove it quite fast and without much strength. The usual way to remove the skin is by piercing it with an iron stick that is placed into the ground. It is really important that the stick is stable and not moving as we can hurt ourself easily. There are others ways to do it but it is a lot more difficult and we won’t target those ways here.
What we do now is hitting the coconut along the upper soft side – that is where the fruit is connected to the branch and has sort of an opening as we can see above – on the stick and push it down. If we do it in the right way and we are working with the direction of the fibers inside the coconut, we will be able to rip the first piece of skin off which is the hardest part. After, it gets a lot easier I promise.
Working along the fibers is by the way one of the most valuable advices I can give you as other wise we will literally have a hard time. Also be sure not to try to pierce it on the downside of the coconut as the skin there is much harder as on the top.
After this we just repeat the same process until the whole skin is removed. The result will be the coconut left with its so called “Shell” how you will also find it when it is sold in stores.
A fresh coconut with it’s removed outer skin
Step 3 – Open the shell
Opening the shell is quite easy compared to opening the skin and only a short step. What we need is just anything like a knife or a stone with what we can hit along the horizontal side of the coconut. A few precise hits while turning the coconut in our hands and it will open easily. Just don’t forget that there is coconut water inside that will come out. So, if we want to use it, we should place a bowl or similar beneath to catch the water.
By the way, if we are thinking about drinking the water, I recommend you to use a young coconut as their water is much sweeter than the one from the kind of coconut we are using now but I will talk about this another time.
Knife placement for opening the shell and opened coconut shell
You migh notice that in the first picture our coconut already grew the sapling I was speaking about before. This is okay as long as it didn’t pierce through the outer skin but still if you can, use one without the growing plant.
Step 4 – Grate the coconut
This for me is the most time-consuming part of making coconut milk as now we have to grate the coconut to receive the coconut flakes. At this point, we can also decide if we just want to use the flakes, in this case the process will take even longer as you have to grate really precisely, or if we just want to use the flakes for pressing milk afterwards. In this case the flakes can be thicker and it will be quicker.
What we will need for grating is a specific grater. These graters exist in a handy format and can be used similar to normal graters but what local people here do is to fixate it on a wooden board on which we can sit on while grating. Ideally you place a bowl beneath it as the coconut flakes will otherwise fall on the ground and we don’t won’t to end up with crunchy flakes 😉
So, our set-up looks like this:
We might need some time to figure out how to move the coconut most efficiently over the grater and honestly it is hard to describe but surely you will get a feeling for it by yourself.
As soon as we reach the shell from the inside we should stop grating because we will get the dirt inside our flakes. We can already get a good amount of flakes out of one coconut as you can see below.
Step 5 – Press the milk
We nearly made it! Now we just have to do the final step to get our desired coconut milk by pressing the coconut flakes we just acquired. This is by far the most simple step. We just need a clean old cloth or any WHITE clothing. We don’t want our milk to be unhealthily colorful.
Pressing of coconut milk
That’s it! We made it! Now you know how to make your own coconut milk if you come to an island. Of course there is much more to do with coconuts but we will discover this next time 🙂
Thank you for reading!
"The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk."