Su-Mei Yu's Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk
Crack Fresh Coconuts to Make Coconut Milk
Su-Mei Yu, the author of "The Elements of Life," says it is very hard to persuade people to crack a coconut, as it is hard, but she assures us that doing so is a tasty, healthy treat.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a screwdriver and hammer, pierce a hole through each of the three indentations on the surface of the coconuts and drain the liquid. Discard the liquid. Place the coconuts in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Let them cool slightly before breaking each one open with a hammer. Drape one hand with a thick towel and hold onto a piece of shell with meat. With the other hand, use a knife to pry loose the meat. It should come off easily.
Remove the hard, outer peel from the pieces of coconut with a vegetable peeler and discard or dry in the sun, reserving to be used for smoking or grilling recipes. Store them in a paper or plastic bag with your other grilling equipment; they'll keep for months. Slice the white coconut meat into small pieces and put them in a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup of the boiling water and process until the liquid turns milky and the coconut is reduced to pulp. Line a fine-mesh strainer with several pieces of cheesecloth and set on top of a bowl. Transfer the contents of the blender to the strainer. Let drain until the pulp is cool enough to touch, then extract the remaining liquid by squeezing the cloth tight and hard. This is the coconut cream.
Return the coconut pulp to the blender and add the remaining 3 to 4 cups boiling water, depending on how thick you want your milk. Process until the water turns milky. Line the strainer with a clean piece of cheesecloth, then pour in the contents of the blender and let drain into a bowl. When the pulp is cool enough to touch, squeeze the cloth tight to extract any remaining liquid. This is the coconut milk.
When a recipe calls for coconut cream and milk combined, mix equal amounts of each to combine. Coconut cream and coconut milk will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days in an airtight container. They can also be frozen. Transfer the cream and/or milk to separate zip-top plastic bags, seal, set them on a baking sheet, and place in the freezer until frozen. Now you can store them stacked on one another. Make sure to date your bags; coconut cream and milk will keep in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
Makes about 1 cup cream and 3 to 4 cups milk.