Introduction: Husk a Coconut; Make Coconut Milk

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific I…

Coconut Milk is different from coconut juice. The milk is made from the meat of the coconut and really looks like milk or cream. It contains fat. The juice is a clear or cloudy liquid that contains no fat. It just runs out of the coconut when you chop it open or poke a hole in it.

For more ways to eat a coconut, try
Coconut Juice and
Eat a Sprouted Coconut

Step 1: Get a Coconut

Climbing coconut trees is dangerous. Even professional climbers fall and die.
Star demonstrates a good safe way to get them.
Her pruning clipper has a pole that extends about 15 feet. She stands on a ladder to get high enough to reach these nuts. She cuts the stem the coconut hangs from and makes sure she's not standing right under it.

Step 2: Husk the Coconut

This is a skill that takes a while to learn. Get a whole stack of coconuts to practice on.

The following method is what they use to husk coconuts commercially, in poor countries anyway.
Get a stake that's sharp on top. It doesn't have to be dangerously sharp, just pointy. Some people like a chisel shape. A pickaxe stuck in the ground works well as shown here. Some people use the pointy end, some use the chisel end.
You can use a machete to lop off a sapling or tree branch at the right height. I often see that near a pile of husks. The right height is between knee and waist height.

Jam the spike into the husk near the stem end. It should be easy to do because the husk is less dense there. The coconut husk will have several lobes. Jam the spike between the lobes with the coconut tilted at an angle. Pry the lobe off. It should start ripping off and then stop. Rotate the coconut, jam it on the stake and start ripping the next lobe. I usually do it three times. The second or third lobe just rips off because the other lobes aren't holding it on. Then pry the remaining lobes off. Rip them off with your hand if they're just hanging on. Don't impale yourself on the stake.

Step 3: There's Got to Be an Angle

And this is it. The Angle. Jam it on the spike like this and pry.
That's what works on these coconuts anyway. Your coconuts may be a different variety.

Step 4: Nature's Bottle Cap

Leave the husk on the coconut at the stem end if you want to save the coconut for later.
This is a Marshallese trick. It keeps the coconut from spoiling. It's easy to knock or cut the "cap" off later since there are no long fibers in this section. You don't have to leave that green stuff on at the very top, but it looks nice in this picture. An inch or two left over the top of the coconut is plenty.

Step 5: Open the Coconut

Poke a hole in one of the "monkey's eyes" and pour out the juice. Usually I drink it right then. You can save it for later steps if you want. If the juice is sour feed the nut to your pigs and get another one.

The juice is like nature's gatorade, only better. It's got all the electrolytes you need in the tropical places where coconuts grow.
It's also sterile if it's from a picked coconut. They used it in WW2 as IV fluid for wounded soldiers or soldiers sick from the wet kind of tropical diseases. So I've been told anyway.
Probably a coconut on the ground is sterile also, but some of them crack and go sour after they hit the ground.

To open the coconut, whack it on the circumference with the back of your machete. You don't have to hit it very hard. Just keep whacking it around the equator. You can also use a rock or anything that isn't too heavy. If you hit it with something heavy there won't be good "impedance matching" and the nut won't crack easily. The crack will then grow toward wherever you hit the nut.
After you break the nut in half, you can break it into smaller pieces the same way.

Step 6: Butcher for Meat

Use a knife or spoon to pry the meat off the shells. Cut it up.

If raw coconut bothers you, cook the meat in a microwave for a couple of minutes. The flavor is slightly different and maybe the protein is easier to absorb.

Step 7: Blender Method

The traditional method uses a tool like a shoehorn with a serrated edge to scrape shredded coconut out of a half shell. I don't have one of those with me so I'll use a blender.

Cut the meat up into chunks your blender can handle. Put the meat in the blender.
Cover it with enough water for your blender to be happy. If you saved the coconut juice, use that. But probably you drank that right away while fighting with the nut.

Blend it up. If the whole pitcher isn't churning stop and pulse the blades or add more water. When it stops getting thicker you're done.

Step 8: Strainer

Pour it into a piece of cloth. I used a pair of boxer shorts. Of course mine are always cleaner than the Pope's CPU factory in outer space.

One of the traditional methods is to save some fibers from the husk, put the shredded coconut on that, pour the juice on it, then wrap the fibers around it and wring it out.

Step 9: Milking Time at the Zoo

Squeeze out the ambrosia. They call it milk but it's a lot like cream. Use it for cooking, making umbrella drinks. The mix of fats goes well with the deepwater fish you speared under that navigation buoy with your giant speargun.

Step 10: Dry Pulp

What you have left is dry shredded coconut meat. Probably it's high in protein. Mix it with some eggs and fry it. It'll fluff up like a pancake and be really satisfying to eat. Just the thing for when you're done surfing, or on your way to surfing.

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