How to open coconuts
For preparing our coconut yogurt or any other recipe that requires young Thai coconut meat, we in most cases, need to open our young Thai coconut.
What is a Young Thai Coconut?
The coconut that you see here is exactly this: it's young. The meat inside is not mature.
Whenever you see brown hairy coconuts in the shop, these are mature coconuts with mature meat, meaning firm meat. And this is not what you want to use.
Of course, coconuts don’t grow like this. If you're in a tropical country that has coconuts growing, it will not be like this. It will be green. And it will probably be kind of a green brownish ball that then is cut into shape by producers for our convenience. Right?
But if you are in a tropical country, then most likely you're fortunate enough that you do not have to open your coconut yourself. You can probably just go to the “coconut Walla”, as we call them in India and they'll open the coconut for you, and give you the meat and juice.
If you do have to open the coconut yourself, then we need to, of course, consider how to do this best.
The most important step is security.
We have our coconut on a non-slippery surface, and it stands evenly. We keep the hand, that is not handling the knife safely behind our back, so we don't cut ourselves.
We use a knife that we don't care too much about, that is strong with a strong blade. You could use a machete, a cleaver, or any other old knife that is large, powerful, and you don't care about breaking.
So when you are hitting the coconut, we want to hit it at a few points and we want to hit it with the bottom corner of the blade. We of course also keep the fingers that are holding the blade secure, hence we are wrapping our fingers securely around the grip.
When we aim at the coconut, we aim with the corner, as I said, and we try to hit it with our full power and hit the coconut as many times as we need to, but circling it around, each time hitting it, getting deeper into the wooden material that is encasing the juice and the flesh.
What is important is that it stands with the tip showing to the top, because it's full of juice and you want to avoid losing any of this precious coconut water. It is so delicious.
You can use coconut water to replace other liquids, like water in your recipes.
So again, let's go for it:
The left hand, that I don’t use in my case is secure. And I'm looking at the coconut knowing already where I'm going to hit it - because like you know if you drive: wherever you are looking, that's where you are going. This is the same here.
When you can see a splash, you know that there is water coming through, meaning that you have already hit your target.
If it is needed and it is difficult to create a hole, you can remove some of the wooden parts by just cutting them off and it will be easier for you to see where you are going to hit.
Once you have created a small hole, we can already strain the juice. However in our case, we want that meat, right? Whenever we want that meat, we want to create a big hole so we can at least use a spoon to scrape out the meat. Then we get a bowl and a strainer because we don't want any of these bits of the wood or, and this fibrous material around the coconut in our meat or our drink.
Opening coconuts gives you a little bit of a holiday feel and it is amazing how much juice some of the coconuts have.
We can discard all the wooden parts.
What kind of Meat do we want?
When we look at the meat, we will see different textures of meat, the more mature, the coconut, the thicker the meat, the more firm the meat, and the less usable for our purposes.
So as soon as the meat becomes very solid and very firm, really the only thing we can do is dehydrate it. And we can use this for making coconut milk, coconut cream, shredded coconut, coconut butter, or coconut oil.
But whenever we are after the meat for yogurt, for creams, and so forth, if it's thin and still pliable. So anywhere in between jelly and firm jelly, it's very young coconut meat. But if it's in between jelly and a firm level of thickness, you can also still use it.
Also color is important when it comes to checking the quality of your coconut. So you want to check whether it is pink, meaning usually it's kind of young, and good to use. However, as soon as the color turns into a grayish off-color, you can see that the coconut is not as fresh and maybe you need to discard it. Of course, a bright white color is always ideal.
You can always smell it as well. Sometimes our coconut water gets fermented or it doesn't smell so fresh, so we can smell and we will instinctively know if it is ok, right? When it smells fresh, it is for us to enjoy.
Getting the Meat
Then we can get to our meat.
If you have a large enough hole in your coconut, you can just scrape out the coconut meat with a spoon and you do not necessarily need to go to the next step. But if you want to, and you have a Cleaver, you can. This is going to be a little bit challenging with a knife, and it's probably going to ruin our blade. So if you have a cleaver, if you have a machete - go for those, it will be easier.
The idea is, again, to protect one of our hands, and this time we are going to hit with the long side of the blade. We want to trap the blade in our coconut, ideally. And then we're just going to smash the coconut onto the surface as many times as we need to. Be aware, that this is going to be noisy. So just so you know - but it can be easy.
If you're not able to open the coconut completely, then you can still get the meat out using your spoon if the hole is large by scraping out the sides.
Cleaning the Meat
Next, we can clean up and we of course need to clean the meat. The first step is to soak our coconut meat in a bowl of water to get rid of all the bits that are sticking to it. We can do that just for 10 minutes. Now we're ready to clean our coconut meat. For this, we just use a peeler to cut off any brown skin that is stuck to the meat.
Then we can have a second bowl with water where we put the clean bits in. We don't of course need to peel off everything just where these wooden parts are.
Storing the Meat
Next up it goes into our fresh water for storage or use in our recipes.
If you decide to keep the coconut meat and not use it right away, then you can also do that - Of course, either in your fridge or in your freezer. Either way, you want to make sure to always add some water to your coconut meat so that it keeps fresh. Even if you are freezing it, it would be in some water. And of course, you would want to portion it out to the amounts that you're likely to use.
You are now ready to use the coconut meat in your yogurt, jerky, mousses, and creams.
*Disclaimer: Using sharp knives, cleavers and machetes is inherently dangerous and can cause cuts. Keep your non-active hand always secure, and be attentive. Please see my disclaimer before using any of the techniques shared on this website.