Coconut Oil and Milk

Coconut Oil and Milk

Coconut Oil

The mature nut with its well-developed endosperm by now white and opaque and at least 1 cm thick, is used commercially. The nuts are split open and dried in the sun. The dried meat called copra, is separated from the shell and pressed to produce coconut oil. This is refined and used for cooking either in liquid form or rendered solid by hydrogenation. Coconut oil is also widely used in making soaps and shampoos. Among the raven-haired women of southern India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, coconut oil is used as a hair oil to keep their crowning glory shiny and well nourished. Coconut oil is one of the vegetable oils which is saturated and therefore not recommended for use on a daily basis, though in countries where coconut is king it is the accepted cooking medium.

Coconut Milk

In some Asian and Pacific countries there are industries producing coconut milk. Factories extract the rich milk from the grated flesh of mature coconuts and package it in cans or cartons for export either as coconut cream, coconut milk or coconut extract. If a recipe requires a rich coconut milk and you are unfamiliar with the brands on offer, it is probably safer to buy a tin marked coconut cream. There is also a solid block called creamed coconut which is not recommended since it lacks the smoothness and fresh flavor of a good coconut milk.

Other factories freeze-dry the milk to a powder which is reconstituted before use, but this has a heat-treated taste, much as evaporated dairy milk has. Use it if you have to, but fresh coconut milk is best, with canned coconut milk a close second.

Before canned coconut milk, thick coconut milk (first pressing) and thin coconut milk (second or third pressing) was extracted from desiccated (dried, shredded) coconut steep in hot milk or water. Coconut milk is the extract of the grated flesh of mature coconuts. It is a mistake to refer to the clear liquid inside the coconut as 'coconut milk'. The liquid inside a coconut is 'coconut water' or 'coconut juice'.

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