Today, I ran across The Food Renegade’s recipe for making coconut milk at home and gave it a whirl. It turned out to be easier than I expected.
Or it would have if the blender imps hadn’t caused my blender to disassemble itself just as I picked it up to pour the hot liquid into the strainer.
More on that later. For now, you may wonder why anyone wants to make her own coconut milk.
The answer is simple enough. Just consider the options in the dairy-free section of your local supermarket dairy case. (Oxymoronic, that, isn’t it? Dairy-free section of the dairy case?)
If you bake and cook with coconut milk, you know that the commercial options are pretty slim, unless you don’t care what other crud shows up in your food.
We pretty much have two choices: Buy coconut milk in cans lined with plastics or buy it in plastic jugs and boxes labeled “coconut milk,” none of which contain only fluid extracted from coconut meat.
Reading the labels on these containers, I nearly faint with all the additives in them. Depending on which one you’re picking from the shelf, you’ll find various sugars, artificial vitamins and minerals, thickeners and preservatives, many with multi-syllabic names that make my head hurt trying to work out the pronunciations.
I don’t want to bake with that, don’t want to feed it to my kids and grandkids when they come over, and I don’t want to eat it either.
Back to the coconut milk and my blender doo-doo
To make the milk, I followed Renegade’s recipe. It’s super easy. She calls for coconut chips and says if you have flakes, you may have to adjust the quantity up a little.
I didn’t have bona fide coconut chips on hand. I did have a bag of organic flakes that had a little hand-stamped thing on the bottom that claimed they were coconut chips. That made it all rather confusing. So I guessed.
Never having seen a coconut chip in my life, unless these flakes are after all chips, and guessing that chips would be at least twice as dense as flakes, I doubled the quantity.
That seemed to work out just fine, in the blender, with the two cups hot water Renegade specified. I got a nice, creamy looking liquid. Isn’t it pretty?
So what about those blender imps?
My stand blender is no hot stuff. Renegade uses a big, powerful Vita Mix. I have a little Cuisinart blender that comes in handy for smoothies and the like.
Now that I have a powerful stick blender, I don’t use my stand-alone blender all that often. In fact, I store it on the highest shelf in the kitchen cupboard, just for those once or twice a year times I need a stand blender.
Like today. I knew my old hands weren’t going to hang onto the stick for the three or four minutes it might take to liquefy those flakes, so I climbed up on the step-stool and brought the old-fashioned blender down, dusted it off and plugged it in.
My bad. Sure, I checked, sort of. It all felt solid enough, everything in its place–rotor blade, rubber ring, holding cup. Thing is, I almost never use the liquefy button. I forgot I’m supposed to start slow and ramp up to liquefy.
Maybe the hot water had something to do with it, but the pressure nearly blew the lid off the blender. If I hadn’t caught it and pressed it down quick, I’d have had coconut on the ceiling. Glad to know my reflexes still work. All the same, it spattered plenty.
Got that cleaned up and started out again. All went well, as long as I was blending. Made a nice creamy looking mess inside that clear glass jar. Turned off the blender, set up my cheesecloth-lined strainer, and picked up the jar to pour.
That’s when the bottom fell out. Yeah, really. The bottom fell off the blender. Apparently, all that gyrating had loosened the mechanism.
What I should have done from the get-go was disassemble and reassemble. After all, that blender had been sitting unused on the top shelf of the cupboard for a year or more.
Half the milk ran down the sides of the work table and right under the stove–the stove that we can’t move because it’s affixed to the wall on a short tether due to our living in earthquake country. Hooboy.
Was it worth it
Making coconut milk? Better question to ask is: Will it be worth it if I don’t forget to assure the blender is properly assembled?
The answer is: Maybe. On the plus side, the milk tastes good. Lots of rich coconut flavor, a little oily tasting. It would be fine in baking. I wouldn’t want to drink it outright. I’m a cream-in-my-coffee kind of girl, so I’ll stick to whole milk and occasional half and half splurges.
Nana, who stopped drinking dairy, drinks coffee here on Saturdays. I’m looking forward to seeing what she says about it.
UPDATE 5/20/2015: Nana, too, thought the milk too oily to drink plain, but she liked it in her coffee enough that she’d be willing to try it again if I reduce the ratio of flakes to water. Since my bag has that “Chips” hand stamp, next time I’ll follow Renegade’s recipe exactly and see what we get.
On the down side
Byproduct. As I mentioned earlier, after blending the water and coconut flakes, we have to strain them, through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. That’s so the cheesecloth can catch the coconut bits that didn’t liquefy, a byproduct of the milk-making process.
By the time I’d twisted that cheesecloth as tight as these old hands could, and squeezed out as much fluid as possible, I had an ovate mass of byproduct about the size of a tennis ball–a lemon-shaped tennis ball.
Some folks commenting on Food Renegade’s site say they dehydrate the leftovers and grind them into flour for baking.
That seemed like a good plan. I’ve meant to try coconut flour in baking but never bought any. Comes in plastic packages, which I avoid every way I can.
Sadly, plastic is everywhere and it’s not nearly as easy to avoid as you might think. Those flakes I mentioned? You may have noticed they came in a plastic bag too. Perhaps I can cut one plastic bag from my cupboard by using this coconut milk byproduct to make flour.
Dehydrating produces something like shredded coconut
To dehydrate my lot, I covered a rack loosely with baking parchment, then set it on my big jelly roll pan, spread the crumbly coconut over it, and left it in the oven overnight with the light on.
It wasn’t all that wet, just slightly moist, and looked a lot like shredded coconut. I didn’t use my oven until late the next day, only to discover I had forgotten about the coconut. It was dry all right.
The bits looked and tasted for all the world like shredded coconut. Perhaps I can use them in my coconut snickerdoodles. First, though, I wanted to see whether I could grind them into flour.
To make the “flour,” I processed the dried bits in my coffee grinder. As you can see in the photograph below, the result is not as fine as flour, and a little more gritty. I froze it and will try it in place of some of the flour next time I make coconut cookies. When I do, I’ll let you know how it worked.
Another possible use: Somewhere, in the distant past, I’ve heard of using coconut flour as an exfoliant. I’ll try a little in the shower next time I give myself a mini facial.
So yes, we can make our own organic coconut milk at home
It’s pretty easy to do, if you don’t forget to make sure your blender parts are where they belong and tightly assembled.
That’s a win.