Cans of coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut powder are always lined up in my pantry, but there is nothing quite like fresh coconut milk. The cans are good to have around when you're in a hurry or can't find good coconut, but I prefer to make it when possible. The taste is fresher and sweeter than anything from a shelf.
In India there are men in the streets pulverizing coconut flesh in massive mortar and pestles, but with a good blender the hardest part is finding the coconut.
When you're picking out your coconuts, you want them to feel heavy for their size. This indicates that they are fresh because the liquid has not dried up from inside. The rest is based on luck. I've been disappointed countless times from cracking open a moldy coconut, which looks and feels perfect from the outside. Try to buy from busy Asian, Indian, or Latin markets where you know they sell more volume. It's your best bet for finding fresh coconuts. I never purchase exotic fruits and vegetables, such as mango or papaya, from standard American groceries. One coconut yields about one can of coconut milk.
Once you have your coconut, you have to crack it. The best way I have found is the traditional way. While holding the coconut in one hand over a bowl to collect the water, hit with the back of a heavy knife along the horizontal equator. It should split evenly down the middle.
The secret to smooth, creamy coconut milk is a Vita Prep blender and a Super Bag. It can definitely be accomplished in a regular blender with cheesecloth, but your yield will be lower and the milk will not be as creamy. The Vita Prep is the blender of the gods and worth the investment if you want to make your own milks or tofu.
Once your coconuts are opened, remove all the flesh. Put the flesh into the blender with enough of the coconut water to blend. Blend on high speed for a few minutes, until thoroughly liquified. After blending, squeeze the milk through a Super Bag or several layers of cheesecloth.
Now that you have fresh coconut milk, here are a few things to do with it:Thai Green CurryCoconut Sticky RiceCoconut FlanHave you made coconut milk before?