Homemade Coconut Milk

All seven of us are still on full GAPS right now and while we can (and should) have cultured dairy - like our kefir and homemade sour cream - we can't have "fresh" (or uncultured/unfermented) dairy right now, because of the lactose (milk sugar) .

Now we *love* us some good, raw milk here in this family, so this could be a sad development...but a happy side-effect is that it has caused us to try coconut milk.  Not only is coconut milk a great dairy-free alternative for those avoiding dairy for whatever reason, but the medium-chain fatty acids and lauric acid in coconut milk make it downright good for us.

Coconut milk is becoming more common, and you can likely find it in cans on your grocery store shelf, or in the refrigerated section of the store in cartons.  Skip both of those.  The cans at regular grocery stores are sure to have BPA in the lining, and probably other ingredients in the milk itself that are best avoided.  And here is a good explanation on why the cartons of coconut milk (and almond milk) are not a healthy buy.

There are some BPA-free cans of coconut milk available online but it's expensive and - Hallelujah - coconut milk is very easy to make at home and works out much cheaper to boot.  I bought a 25-lb bag of organic shredded coconut through our co-op several months ago for just less than $2/pound.  This equates to $0.195 per cup of homemade coconut milk.  The canned milk I just linked to equates to $1.30-$1.36 per cup.

Healthier + cheaper = I'm all over it.

It takes two ingredients to make coconut milk at home:
Shredded coconut

And the tools I use are:
Kitchen towel (or cheesecloth or nut-milk bag)

You use a two-to-one ratio of water-to-shredded coconut.   (I can fit 4 cups of water and 2 cups of coconut in my blender at a time, so I always make that amount)

Warm the water up, but don't boil it.  

Then combine the water and shredded coconut in your blender.  

Blend on high for 3-5 minutes:

After I get it started in the blender and it's done splashing about, I vent the plastic part on
the top of my lid so some of the heat can escape during the mixing process.

After the 3-5 minutes of mixing time is over, set a strainer over a bowl....

I use my 8-cup measuring cup and biggest strainer, so as to fit as much mixture in there at one time as possible

....and then put a piece of cheesecloth, a nut-milk bag or a clean kitchen towel (my choice) over the strainer:

Then you start pouring the coconut/water mixture in...slowly:

Mine doesn't all fit in the strainer at first, but as some strains through in pretty short order, I am then able to pour the rest in:

See it straining through?  

The next step is to squeeze the rest of the coconut milk out, leaving the pulp in the kitchen towel.  But you have to be patient at this point, because the mixture is still hot.  It is best to just leave it on the counter to cool down for a while so you don't burn the pooky (that's a technical term) out of your hands.  (Ask me how I know)  So just leave it for a while.  30 minutes?  One hour?  I've left it for several hours, when I just got busy with other stuff...it's fine....

Before I start squeezing - after just sitting there passively straining through - it usually amounts to 2-3 cups of milk.  But then I set a goal for myself to squeeze enough milk through the towel to get up to 4 cups.  Anyone else competitive with themselves that way?

This method makes such nice, creamy coconut milk, that when left in fridge, the cream rises to the top and congeals, like so:  

THAT is a beautiful site!

The above method for making coconut milk is what I've settled on as best for us, but here are...

Two Other Methods for Making Coconut Milk

- If you are in a hurry, or just lazy, you can do this even easier:  Skip the straining part.  I'd read that some people do this, so I tried it once.  The resulting milk is definitely grain-ier, but if that doesn't bother you, go for it.  Or, for some applications (smoothies?), it wouldn't matter anyway.  

- I read about and tried this method once:  Instead of heating the water up first, just blend the coconut and cold water and then strain as detailed above.  The problem with this method is that the fat doesn't come out of the shredded coconut, so you end up with Lite Coconut Milk.  We want all the good fat...so I haven't used this method again, but if you were in a hurry, it could be helpful.

Now what do we do with this coconut milk?

I make yummy Dairy-Free Fruit popsicles.  They're supposed to be for G...but we all like them, and sometimes sneak some of his stash.  shhhhhh!

You can use it in place of dairy milk in any recipe.

We regularly make yummy Chocolate Ice Cream.  And Strawberry Ice Cream.  And Chai-Spiced Ice Cream.  (The first time we made that Chai ice cream, we tested it to see if we liked it.  Ummmm...we did like it.  In fact, all 7 of us stood right there in the kitchen and ate it right out of the ice cream maker...it never made it to bowls.)   Yes, we like ice cream, how did you know?  And when it is this good for us, I see no reason to not make it several times a week if we want to!

This  Pumpkin-Spiced Steamer is so very yummy.

I've also enjoyed this Creamy Turmeric Tea a couple of times.  

We've made this Hot Chocolate and loved it...I've been getting lots of requests for it lately.

I've been wanting to try this Chocolate Pudding recipe.

I like to drink the coconut milk straight up, but I've read that some people blend in vanilla extract and a date or two to sweeten and flavor it.  

You can scoop some cream off after it has risen to the top, whip it and use it as you would dairy whipped cream.

High on my "New Things to Tackle" list is to begin making coconut kefir and/or coconut milk yogurt, so Mr. G can get some more good probiotics that way.

How about you - have you ever used coconut milk?  What do you do with it? Have you tried making it yourself?

This post is linked up to Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager.

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