Fresh coconuts are so much nicer than the dried coconut you get in the shops. I love eating slices of fresh coconut, but it's also a real treat to use the coconut juice in cooking. I even slice it really thin by hand and put the pieces in the dehydrator. It's so much nicer tasting that anything you buy in the stores it's worth the extra effort. I really can't go back to the stuff they sell in stores now after tasting this.
The tricky part is in cracking it. Here's how I do it…
Choosing A Coconut
First, a tip on choosing a coconut. If you find fresh coconuts in the shop, hold them up next to your ear and shake them. You should be able to hear the juice sloshing about inside. A fresh, mature coconut should have about a cup of juice. If you ever get an older coconut, you'll notice that there's not as much juice sloshing about, and it's not as heavy (because the juice has dried up) as a fresher coconut.
Get The Juice Out
There are 3 darker colored depressions (called ‘eyes') on one end of a coconut. Make sure you have a good grip on the coconut and have it sitting on a hard surface, concrete or brick is ideal. Using a large, strong nail and hammer, pound the nail into one of the eyes. It's pretty easy because the shell at those three spots is not a strong as the rest of the shell.
You should be able to break through the depression quite easily. Once you do, work the nail around in a circle to enlarge the hole. Make sure you pound the nail in far enough to pierce through the coconut flesh. Pierce the other 2 holes is the same way.
Now tip the coconut, holes down over a bowl or measuring cup and let the juice drain out. Make sure that air can enter through one or two of the holes, otherwise it will create a vacuum and the juice won't be able to flow out.
Once you have poured all the juice out you can drink it, or set it aside to use in recipes, like my Coconut Rice recipe. It's best to use it the same day if possible, and refrigerate if you are not going to use it right away.
Cracking The Coconut
You want to make sure you have a firm grip on the coconut. It will tend to move and bounce as you're trying to crack it. If you have a heavy, 3-pound hammer it will make your work a lot easier. Otherwise using the heaviest hammer that you have, hold the coconut in one hand and hit the shell with the hammer. You want to hit directly down on the shell, with a hard surface like concrete underneath it. Turn the coconut and try again from a different angle. Just keep working like this, at some point you will find a weak spot and the shell will crack. Once you have a crack in the shell, keep hammering along the crack to widen it.
Ideally, you want to break the shell into at least 3 pieces. This will make it easier to get the coconut flesh out.
Getting The Coconut Flesh Out Of The Shell
Take one of the pieces of shell, and holding it firmly use a strong butter knife to cut a line in the coconut flesh about a 1/4 inch (5mm) from one edge. The easiest way to do this is to hold the knife perpendicular to the coconut and push it into the flesh, then rock the knife back and forth a bit. Pull the knife out, move it along and do the same again until you have cut a line from edge to edge. Now insert the knife back into the cut line and rock the blade from side to side, prying the strip of coconut you have just cut. You'll be able to pry the strip off this way.
Don't worry if it looks like part of the shell is still attached. You can eat this, there is no noticeable taste to it. Just keep working strips like this until you have taken all the flesh off the shell. Experiment and you'll get a feel for how wide a strip you can pry off. If you are having trouble, try working on a thinner strip of flesh.
Eating Your Coconut
I love eating the strips just as they are. But you can also grate the coconut for use in recipes. To grate it, just hold the strip on the brown side and using a fine grater, grate with the white side against the blade.
So that's one way to crack a coconut. Tell me how you do it! Do you have any tips that make the job easier? Leave a comment and let me know.