Canned coconut milk is perfectly acceptable in most recipes that call for it. But there's no denying that made-from-scratch coconut milk has a certain incomparable freshness and delicacy of flavor. If you have a little extra time, a hammer, and an ice pick or a screwdriver, have a crack at this method.
PREP TIME About 45 minutes
MAKES About 2 cups
NOTES Choose fresh coconuts that are full of sloshing liquid when shaken. Coconut milk keeps, frozen, up to 3 months and in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
2 fresh coconuts
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Use an ice pick or screwdriver and a hammer to pierce the eyes of the coconuts. Set coconuts, eyes down, in a colander set into sink to drain water. Place coconuts in oven on a baking sheet and bake until cracked around center, about 25 minutes.
2. Let coconuts cool slightly; then, using the claw side of the hammer, tap the coconut all over to break into chunks. Pull off and discard shell, and then pare brown skin from coconut flesh.
3. Cut coconut flesh into chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 2 cups boiling water and process until finely chopped, 1 minute.
4. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour coconut mixture into sieve. Drain, squeezing coconut in cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible, and discard solids.