How to Extract Coconut Milk

Extracting Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is very important, for it is the magic that smoothes out a fiery sauce and gives richness to many curries. It is also used without spices in the foods of the Pacific, where it takes the place of every emulsion or sauce you can think of in Western cooking.

Place the grated flesh of one coconut in a bowl with a cup of hot water or milk and squeeze firmly to release the richness. Instead of squeezing and kneading, it is more easily done in a blender. Strain and set aside. The first extract is known as coconut cream or thick milk and is usually added at the end of a recipe. Repeat the procedure using the same coconut with more liquid. use where thin coconut milk is required, as in long simmering of ingredients.

If using desiccated coconut it is definitely easier with a blender. Soak 2 cups desiccated coconut in 2 1/2 cups hot water or milk and allow to cool before putting into the blender and processing at high speed. Strain, pressing out all the liquid. Repeat using the same coconut and slightly less liquid as the coconut is already moist. Second and even third extracts have flavor and may be used as cooking liquid.

Remember, coconut milk is very perishable even under refrigeration. It should be used within a day of extracting it or opening a can. If only a small quantity is needed, immediately pour the rest into ice-cube trays and freeze until firm, then store in plastic bags in the freezer. These cubes come in very useful when just a light flavor of coconut is required. If watching intake of fats, a good way to enjoy the flavor of coconut milk without excess richness is to add 4 or 4 cubes to a cup of water or stock and use as the liquid in a soup or curry. Each cube equals approximately a tablespoon.

Coconut milk has a tendency to curdle at high temperatures, and in Asia it is recommended that the pan in which it cooks should not be covered, as this encourages curdling. Also, it is stirred while coming to simmering point. In the Pacific, the rule is that dishes featuring thick coconut milk or cream are only simmered, never boiled, and the addition of a little slaked cornflour (cornstarch) is extra insurance against curdling.

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