I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts..
Well actually I just have one, but if I did have a whole bunch this is how I would get them all cracked, shredded and ready to go in just a few minutes. Without power tools, and without taking it outside and slamming it into a brick wall repeatedly until it gives up the goods. Therapeutic, but unnecessary.
My methods are time tested and proven BUT actually if you have a better way I'd love to get some feedback, because narrowing down the time for menial prep tasks like this is my ultimate goal in life I think. Here we go.
Deconstruction of a Coconut
Time: 20 minutes
Servings: Approximately 2 cups per nut, plus 1/3-1/2 cup juice
- Cleaver, or sturdy knife with a nice thick steel blade
- Clean cutting board
- Bowl for the juice
For Juice, Peeling and Shredding:
- fine mesh strainer
- small baking dish
- vegetable peeler
- cheese grater
- 1 coconut, or as many as your heart desires
Punch hole in two of the three eyes using screwdriver and hammer. Drain juice. This step can be skipped if you dont mind fleck of brown coconut stuff in your pristine juice.
Use back of knife to crack your coconut.
Bake in oven 10 minutes to shrink flesh and make removal quick and easy.
Peel and shred coconut.
Step 1: Go for the Eyes
First things first. Preheat your oven for 375 degrees.
In order to make buying fresh coconuts worthwhile I like to get every bit I can out of them. This means taking the extra time to knock small holes in two of the coconuts "eyes" so I can drain out every drop of juice. This can really add up to a nice amount when you're dealing with a few coconuts. I seem to get an average of 1/3 to 1/2 cup of juice per coconut.
If you're not too bothered by it and want to just get cracking, you can skip this step.
First, wash your screwdriver in hot soapy water. You don't have to worry about sanitizing the hammer as it will not be coming into contact with your coconut. If you don't have a hammer you can probably just push it in by hand, the eyes are softer than the rest.
Place the end of your screwdriver on one eye, knock in about 2 inches, and pull out cleanly.
Repeat with the second eye. Knocking out two instead of one lets the air escape and your juice will come out more easily.
Pour your juice into a bowl with a fine mesh strainer set on top. That isn't pictured, because mine has sprouted legs and gone to look for a better life, but it's handy to strain out all the bits.
Step 2: Crack It Half
Make sure your coconut is held securely in place. I've put a wet paper towel under my cutting board to keep it from slipping. If you're nervous, twist a tea towel into a circle and place the coconut in the middle, it will help it from slipping.
Using the back of a cleaver, or a sturdy knife, tap with significant force all away around the circumference of the coconut. This is going around the fattest part, against the grain of the shell. It might take you two passes around, but it will crack cleanly in half.
Step 3: Get at That Meat!
Okay, now the fastest way I have found to get the meat out of the coconut is to pop it into a 375F oven for 10-12 minutes, not to cook it, but to cause the meat to shrink away from the shell. This way it pops out in one whole piece which makes it a lot easier to deal with.
So, pop your coconuts into a hot oven and just check them after 10 minutes. You should be able to visibly see a gap starting around the inside of the shell. Pull them out and let them cool for 5 minutes. Pull out the beautiful white dome of delicious coconutty goodness. Tada!
Step 4: Fancy Time
Peeling is optional. I think it looks quite nice with the edge of brown along the side of ribbons of pearly white coconut. Your best bet for this is a common veggie peeler.
You can then use your veggie peeler you peel long ribbons of coconuts from the longest edge of your piece. You can make fancy roses with these if you're interested in that, here's a video. They're using a tomato, but it will work the same. Totally worthwhile...
Using a cheese grater you can shred it into medium or fine shreds of coconut.
You can even use the finest holes on your grater to grate fine coconut dust.
From here you can eat it, toast it, or dry it in a 100F oven for approximately 2 hours, until its nicely dessicated.
For coconut milk, take your peeled coconut meat and blend it until its a nice smooth pourable consistency. Pour into cheesecloth or a very clean tea towel over a bowl, and tie it up tight. Hang it a couple of inches over the bottom of the bowl and let it drip out over night. Inside the tea towel you'll have coconut pulp, totally edible. Inside the bowl you'll have coconut milk! Curry time.