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Coconut Milk and Cream

Coconut Milk and Cream
Tuesday, 19 May 2009


This recipe and others can be found in the 12-part illustrated series "A World of Curries". You can read all about this unique Indian flavor here.


At a glance
East Indian
2 cups

4 cups grated coconut
2 1/4 cups boiling water or hot milk



In a bowl, cover the grated coconut with with the boiling water (or milk for a thicker coconut "cream") and let it steep for 15 minutes.  Using a strainer, drain the coconut and reserve the "milk."  The coconut meat may be squeezed through muslin cloth or a double layer of cheesecloth to collect the rest of the "milk."
Store the "milk" in the refrigerator (it has about the same shelf life as whole milk), and the "cream" will rise to the top.
Variation: For a thicker milk, approaching cream, instead of steeping the grated coconut in hot water, puree it in a blender with the water and then strain it through cloth.

Additional Tips

Both of these liquids are extracts from coconut and it is important to differentiate them from the highly sweetened, canned coconut cream (or syrup) that is used to make drinks called piña coladas.  The canned cream is not a substitute and should not be used in any recipe in this series. Coconut milk is used extensively in curries and it is best when made from freshly grated coconut meat.  But if that is not available, use dessicated, unsweetened coconut flakes and substitute cow's milk for the water.  Coconut milk powder is now available in some specialty markets, which mixes well with water to make coconut milk.  Canned coconut milk is also commonly available, but cooks should check the label to make certain that sugar has not been added.
Coconuts are widely available in Asian markets and large supermarkets across the U.S. and other countries.  Look for a coconut without cracks or any sign of mold.  The fresher the coconut, the more liquid it has.  To break a coconut open, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Puncture a hole through one of the "eyes" and drain the liquid.  This coconut watermakes an excellent drink and can be consumed straight or mixed with rum or scotch.  Place the coconut in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove it and allow it to cool.  Break it open with a hammer, and the meat should fall away from the shell.  If some meat still clings to the shell, carve it out using a small knife.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin brown skin from the meat, and then grate the meat with a metal grater, or carefully chop it in a food processor using the "pulse" mode.


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