As a child I would be excited when a fresh coconut was cracked and me along with my siblings, cousins and friends would line up to get the coconut water.
Well in India, where I grew up, cracking a fresh coconut was a daily ritual .... almost.
One of my favourite snack growing up was to eat slices of fresh coconut sprinkled with granular sugar and at times some cardamom pdr for a extra special treat . I still love eating those and my son does too. Unfortunately, after coming to USA, when I bought coconuts for the first time, they were not good at all (and expensive too), but back then I didn't knew how to select a good coconut and what to look for. Eventually I stopped using the fresh coconut and turned to the frozen one and slowly got used to the convenience.
Only recently I have bought back the fresh coconut to my kitchen and am so excited about it that I am dedicating a post to it.
Besides the health benefits of eating fresh, its very healing to have fresh produce in your kitchen than packets of frozen stuff in your freezer.
How to select a coconut:
While picking a coconut, look for a one that is heavy for its size. Shake it n make sure it has a lot of water and sounds full. Also avoid coconuts that have cracked or if you see the the eyes(small black holes on top of the coconut) are moldy or damp, they are likely to be rotten inside.
How to store:
An unopened coconut can be stored in a cool and dark place for months(depending on the freshness when purchased). Once opened it will stay good in the refrigerator for a week but you can freeze it for up to 5-6 months.
As I use the ground coconut a lot, I store it in cubes. Once frozen I remove the cubes from the tray n transfer them back to the freezer in a zip lock bag. You can also freeze grated or sliced coconut in zip lock bags
Time Saving Tip:
Grind tomatoes or coconuts, pour them in ice cube trays , freeze and store them in ziplocks for immediate use. Use as many cubes as you need for ur curry, so u dont have to defrost the whole paste n freeze it again.
How to use:
Every part of the coconut is useful. In India people use the husk (the outer fiber) of the coconut to clean their dishes or even as a body scrubber. The coir is an enitre industry and has many uses.
The hard shell is used as wood for making fire, its also used as a container for making candels, spoons etc
The flesh of the coconut is used in cooking, making oil, beauty products and coconut by products.
These are just a few of the many ways a coconut can be used.
In the kitchen we generally use finely ground fresh coconut to make qormas, koftas, desserts, chutneys, curries etc.
To make coconut paste:
Open the coconut and separate the flesh/meat from the hard shell. Some people prefer to peel the dark skin off using a peeler or paring knife. Slice it and grind it to a paste using water only if and as needed.
Run the grinder with coconut without any water for few seconds, once you get it coarsely ground now start adding water as needed. Use as less water as possible
How to make Coconut Milk - the easy way :
Traditionally the coconut is hand scrapped and then strained through a muslin cloth to extract coconut milk , but this is how I make it...the easy way.
I make coconut paste using slightly more water than required and I run the blender slightly longer than required.
Then I strain the paste to get thick and yummy coconut milk.
Coconut milk can be enjoyed as is or used to make curries, desserts or my favourite.... sol kadi
If you have some tips to share or ideas , please let me know, I will be happy to update my post with your suggestions.