On a trip to the French Polynesian island of Moorea (Tahiti adjacent stranded smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) I devoted nearly two hours of my time and a layer of skin (thanks sunburn) trying to get a fresh green coconut cracked open for it’s interior bounty…Talk about first-world problems, right!
First I had to get it down from the tree….I won’t bore you with the details, but it wasn’t easy and I strained my sciatica. Next I had to make it through the thick fibrous outer layer and then use a phillips head screwdriver to drill a hole through the inner shell. Relieved to have made it through the Little Mermaid’s bakini, I was shocked to find the juice was actually clear….like water…fresh tasting and slightly sweet. The same stuff they now sell at the store for a dollar an ounce. But where was the milk?
Well, years later, while shopping in a Chiang Mai market in preparation for our Thai cooking class, I learned how coconut milk is made.
First they take a matured coconut (brown exterior) that has less water inside, because the white coconut flesh has absorbed a lot of it in the older coconuts.
Then they put pieces of the coconut meat into a larger grinder that tears and shreds the flesh apart and spits it out into a fine grind. Sort of like grinding coffee beans, only the grinder is a lot larger.
The shredded coconut meat is then placed in another machine that spins like a turbine. Fresh water is added while the machine spins, causing any liquid trapped inside the shredded coconut to mix with the added water and then out comes coconut cream. Think about how your dryer drum spins and your clothes get centrifugally pressed against the outside while all the liquid runs off.
To convert the coconut cream into coconut milk, you just add more water and voila! Coconut milk…or you can just buy it at the market.