As coconut milk has grown in popularity, you have a number of choices. You can buy canned coconut milk (the traditional form that has been available for some years). Coconut milk is now also available in a refrigerated carton in the milk aisle, although those sometimes contain added sugar and have been pasteurized (which can destroy some nutrients). There is also organic coconut milk that has been “cold pressured,” meaning it has only been lightly heated and processed. The cold pressure technique removes some bacteria, but does not expose the milk to high heat that can deplete vitamins and minerals.
Check the list of ingredients. The best product will be 100% coconut milk, with the possible addition of coconut water. Some producers also add guar gum, a natural product that stabilizes the texture. Make sure the label specifies “unsweetened.” If you do buy the canned variety, look for BPA-free cans.
Of course, you can also make your own coconut milk, and most people who take that route will tell you there is no comparison in taste. It’s the best way to be sure your milk is free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Look for fresh, young coconuts in the refrigerator section of the supermarket or health food store. You can also buy coconut meat removed from the shell, often vacuum packed. Use the meat within three to five days.
How to Make Your Own:
1. Locate fresh coconuts and give them a good shake. Be sure you can hear and feel some liquid sloshing around inside. That is the sign they are fresh.
2. Use a sturdy cleaver to crack open a coconut. If you don’t have a cleaver, you can also use any heavy knife or a hammer.
3. Hit the cleaver on the top of the coconut until you hear it crack. Strain out the coconut water, and retain it to use in smoothies or other drinks. You will then have two or three coconut pieces that have the white flesh inside attached to the inedible shell. Remove the meat either by cutting it out with a paring knife or continue to hit the back of the coconut until the meat falls away from the shell.
4. Rinse the coconut meat, and chop into small pieces. Put the coconut meat in a blender or food processor along with about two cups of water.
5. Blend the coconut meat and water into a thick liquid, and then strain it through a metal strainer or a piece of cheese cloth to separate the pulp from the milk. Squeeze the pulp manually to get out all the milk.
You can find suggestions as how to use the remaining pulp here.