I always have an inkling on how coconut milk is made but I never really had the chance to make it myself. While on vacation, visiting my parents back in my home country, I had the opportunity to “help out” in making coconut milk from scratch. It may seem tedious at first glance, but really, it’s quite easy and fun to do. So for those with easy access to “mature” coconuts, I guarantee you that making this coconut milk from scratch will be worth your while.
First off, the coconut has to be mature and fully ripened. By mature, meaning the coconut meat is thicker and harder and there are lesser coconut water inside. Admittedly, it’s very hard to find mature brown coconut in the States, but I sometimes see some grocery stores that sell them, although very rarely. Be very careful in opening the mature coconut, as it can be tricky and if you’re not careful, you might end up cutting yourself.
Once you’ve opened the coconut, remove the coconut water inside. Using a coconut grater, grate the mature coconut meat inside. The coconut grater that was used here is a traditional one. It’s a lot like this:
You sit astride the bench and hold the coconut using both hands, and start grating. Make sure you have a container underneath to catch the grated coconut meat. It does take some muscle work, but you’ll eventually finish it before you even know it!
Try not to overdo the grating by grating the brown parts. But if you did, however, it’s also fine as you’ll be straining them afterwards.
Once all the coconut meat is grated, you can now take a deep breath as it’ll be easy as 1-2-3 from here on out.
Add just a small amount of water into the grated coconut meat. Just enough to wet the coconut, but not completely submerge it. On this one, I think we only put about 1/4 cup of water or so. You can add more water if you want, depending on how thick and creamy you want your coconut milk to be. The less water you put in, the creamier and thicker the coconut milk will be.
Now for the fun part, using both hands, grab a handful of the coconut meat and tightly squeeze the milk out of it. You would be surprised on how much liquid you can take just from a handful of coconut meat. Continue squeezing, massaging and extracting the coconut milk for about 10 minutes or so. This is what they call the first wash. This results to a very creamy and thick coconut milk.
See how much liquid is extracted?
Strain the coconut milk into another bowl or a container. Strain them 2-3x to make sure all the coconut meat is gone, and that also includes the brown bits that was accidentally grated. If you have a cheesecloth, it’s even better!
Some people prefer a much lighter coconut milk, which can be achieved by doing a second wash. You repeat the exact same methods. Take the washed grated coconut meat and place in a container. Wet it again with minimal amount of water, and then squeeze the milk. Strain into another container. This is called the second wash. I know some people who even do a third wash. I think it truly depends on what you’re going to use it for. For desserts, obviously, you would want it to be creamy. But when using it for cooking meal recipes, some people prefer to use the coconut milk from the second wash.
The coconut milk is now ready to be use for whatever purpose you may have. After squeezing the coconut milk out of the coconut meat, you can either discard those or toast them with a sprinkling of sugar to snack on them or use as a topping. We used the milk right away so there weren’t any leftovers. I do recommend using it right away for a fresher flavor. If not using right away, store in an airtight container and store in the fridge. You may see some separation between the cream and water. Just shake or mix it up and it will become homogenous again. Again, try to use the coconut milk right away as it can turn rancid pretty quickly due to it’s oil content.