It was a coconut-y weekend this past weekend. We cracked our Easter coconuts, as well as bought a couple young coconuts.
Through trial and error, and a little research, we discovered the differences between the two kinds. Young coconuts (called Thai coconuts, probably due to their popularity in Thai cuisine) are the less mature version of the regular coconuts you find in the supermarket.
Young coconuts are explosively filled with tasty coconut water (not to be confused with coconut "milk"). In fact, a couple of them sprayed water when I first cracked them open. We found the Thai coconut water to taste more intensely of coconut----so refreshing. The soft flesh of a Thai coconut is easily scraped out with a spoon but they do not provide as much meat as the mature ones. They are much easier to open, though!
Thai coconuts can be found in health food stores (Whole Foods) and Asian markets. They are usually wrapped in plastic and they lack the brown husk of the typical coconut.
In contrast to a Thai coconut, the typical brown coconut provides more meat. They also contain water, though the amount depends on the coconut's age. Apparently, as the coconut matures, the water is replaced by the meat.
There is a lot of lore and nutritional information about coconuts and their water. The water has been used as a saline solution in emergencies and it has similar properties (electrolytes) to sports drinks and can be used as such. One claim I read asserted that coconut water is more nutritious than milk.
What did we do with all our coconuts??
Thai coconuts are easily opened using this procedure. The brown coconuts are a pain to open (figuratively and literally). There are numerous methods, but we tapped the "eyes" of the coconut with an awl and a hammer. We drained the water, and baked the whole coconuts in a 325-degree oven for 25 minutes. They cracked on their own and we pried them apart. Now for the messy part: removing the meat from the shell. We pried and pulled it apart and then used both a paring knife and a serated peeler to remove the brown skin.
The soft meat of the young coconuts went into ice cream and we used the vast amounts of mature coconut meat for a variety of things: making coconut milk, flaked coconut, and coconut "flour." In fact, I am quite amazed at the versatility and abundance of the humble coconut!
Coconut Meat: Previously, I made coconut milk the traditional way by massaging the coconut meat in filtered water. This time, I put the whole thing in my Vita-mix and whirled it up. I let it sit for 30 minutes and then whirled it again and strained the pulp----- similar to making Almond Milk.
Coconut Flour: The strained pulp from making the coconut meat was put into my dehydrator for about 2 hours. I'll use it in the various energy bears and nuggets I make.
Flaked Coconut: The flaked coconut was made by running it through the shredding disc of my food processor. I also dehydrated it for about 3 hours.
And the most yummy result of our coconut weekend (besides the water from the young coconuts): Coconut Ice Cream!
I used an online recipe as a base. I skimmed off the coconut cream from our coconut milk to make approximately 1 1/2 C. I made a simple syrup of 3/4 C. water to 1/2 C. sugar. I blended the coconut cream, the meat from the two Thai coconuts, 1/2 C. of Thai coconut water, and the simple syrup in my Vita-mix. I chilled the mixture in the refrigerator overnight and added it to my ice cream maker the next day. It is scrumptious!
All in all, it was a very fun coconut-y weekend with some flavorful results. In the future, I'll lean towards purchasing the Thai coconuts for ease of opening, taste and nutrition, and the ease of removing the coconut meat. It makes me want to grow my own palm tree!