I had a reaction to an organic aloe vera gel for the skin and it turned out to be a chemical used to preserve the product called sodium hydroxymethylglycinate. So you can imagine how surprised I was to see the same preservative in a tin of coconut milk intended for cooking. I am glad to say that the tin did end up in the recycling waste (minus the coconut milk) as I was too scared to use it after the incident with the aloe vera gel.
I have noticed that most coconut milk sold in supermarkets isn’t 100% pure and so coconut cream blocks offer the next best alternative but I have to say, the results in cooking is not that great with coconut blocks. Nowadays fresh coconuts are sold in supermarkets so I thought why not make my own natural coconut milk, free of additives.
So I bought myself a coconut from my local Sainsbury’s supermarket and created my own coconut milk in less than 45 minutes. It really wasn’t that difficult and here is how I did it.
- First I had to crack open the coconut in two halves. Sounds like hard work but believe it isn’t! I used the sharp edge of a concrete step outside my house. The key is to strike the coconut in the middle and I keep rotating it with each strike so that weak points are created all around the coconut. Eventually a crack appeared all the way around the coconut and it broke into two halves (mine wasn’t exactly symmetrical but still fine).
- I then used a small solid knife to cut and prise out chunks of the coconut flesh. I found this to be the most time consuming step. I did keep the empty shells after I had removed all the flesh and used them to light a fire in my stove (a really good use for the shells now that the cold weather has arrived).
- To grate the coconut, I discovered by chance that my Bamix® mill is great for this. I was really impressed with how finely grated the coconut came out. I also found that the mill performed well if it is not overfilled with the coconut chunks.
- Once all the coconut was grated, I added it to a stainless steel sieve over a medium sized bowl.
- Using freshly boiled water, I poured about half a litre over the grated coconut. Then I used a metal tablespoon to press against the coconut to squeeze the milk out. After a couple of minutes I ditched the spoon and used my hand which is much more effective (warning: I wouldn't advise this unless you have asbestos hands and can handle the heat). I did discard the used coconut flesh but it could be dried in the oven and used for baking.
- I made about 400ml of coconut milk and on standing it separated into two layers (a bit like unhomogenised milk so the top layer was thick and creamy). The results (taste and aroma) in cooking are amazing and well worth the time it took to make the milk.