Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Put the lime in the coconut...

I used to buy the Trader Joe's unsweetened coconut milk. You know, the kind in the tetra pak. But then I noticed that I was going through a heck of a lot of the stuff, and that it was super-watered down, and therefore, kind of a rip off. I hear great things about the Native Forest brand of canned milk, but it's spendy, takes up a ton of pantry room, and even while it is BPA free, it has guar gum in it. Amazon has it for a pretty amazing price: $23.71 for 12 cans, at the time of this writing.

Just for kicks, I decided to see what the price difference would be if I made my own milk So I bought a 12 pack of organic shredded coconut from Amazon, and did some math (and hopefully, I got it right!)

Native Forest works out to about 17 cents per oz, or $1.36 per cup. Making my own worked out to about 4 cents per oz, or 32 cents per cup.

So that was my motivation. Saving space, convenience, and let's face it, a 400% price cut for a little bit of effort on my part seemed worthwhile. Plus, I can store unsweetened, shredded coconut in the freezer until I need it, and use it for other stuff too!  Let the experiments begin!

I am having good and bad luck with my DIY approach to coconut milk. The end result is always delicious, but the journey has been fraught with peril. Such as blender explosions (no kidding) or the habit of straining everything through a blue tea towel and ending up with lovely cerulean milk. So, here's what I have figured out: it's a process. Also, that next time, I will change some things. I'll be using the Cuisinart, and I will be adding another step to the process.

I like using about a 3:1 ratio of filtered water to coconut. Some people use a more 4:1 ratio, but I like having a thicker texture with the coconut cream on top. And yeah, those are the only two ingredients.  Filtered water and unsweetened dry shredded organic coconut. Most people advocate using warm water. I like to use hot water, because it helps to leach more fat out of the coconut. Mmmmmmm, fat.

Step One: Dump your coconut into the blender. Easy Peasy! You are a genius and a money saver!

Step Two: Throw hot water on top. Pray that the blender does not explode, and switch blender to "on".

(Prayer was not answered. Freak out, pick shredded coconut off the kitchen curtains, and neglect to take any photographic evidence. Resolve to use less liquid for blending, adding more at bottling stage- or use Cuisinart next time. YMMV- your blender may not be demonically possessed. ) 

Step Three: Line giant Pyrex measuring cup with blue tea towel. Hope that blue tea towel doesn't bleed dye into coconut milk this time- shades of Bridget Jones last time around. Happily, this one seems colorfast. Squeeze milk through tea towel. Try to ignore volcanically heated coconut water on your hands. Resolve to get a metal or a wooden napkin ring to help squeeze and protect fingers next time.

Step Four: Voila! Nice, creamy coconut milk. (You would have more if the blender hadn't exploded.) Be happy that you remembered to use a vessel with a spout, as you will be pouring it into a fancy recycled juice bottle.  Covertly feed resulting squeezed coconut pulp to anxious dogs, who are lurking in wait, out of frame.

Step Four, Part Two: How pretty! All ready to go into the fridge overnight! Acknowledge your brilliance. You are Coconut Milk Master.

 Step Four, Part Three: Wake up, decide you want iced Chai. Coconut cream has risen to the top. This seems good, until you realize fat has solidified into a liquid-proof seal. When inverting the bottle and shake and it doesn't work, resort to stabbing with a teaspoon. Coconut cream breaks up somewhat, but now the teaspoon is stuck in the bottle. Contemplate smashing the bottle against the counter like you are in a bar fight. Luckily, spoon magically frees itself. Don't ask questions (or take pictures). 

 Definitely time for some iced chai with coconut milk. While you're not averse to some texture in your chai, large chunks of coconut cream may be a deal breaker for others.

Stick cold coconut milk back into the blender. Hooray! Problem solved. Evidently, the cold alleviates the clumping.  Just a few shakes seems to make things nice and smooth. Back into the fridge.

Check a few hours later, just in case. Yup, still good.

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