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How to open and prepare a Coconut.

     Before buying a coconut, shake it to make sure it is full of liquid. The fresher the coconut, the more liquid it will have, so select one that is comparatively heavy for its size. Coconuts without liquid or those with moldy or wet "eyes" are likely to be spoiled.
     Coconuts may range from 1 to as much as 3 pounds; an average one weighs about 1˝ pounds and will yield from 3 to 4 cups of chopped or grated meat.

     Preheat the oven to 400°. Puncture 2 of the 3 smooth, dark eyes of the coconut by hammering the tip of an ice pick or screw driver through them. Drain all the coconut liquid-into a measuring cup if you plan to use it. Indians rarely cook with this liquid though they do drink it chilled.

     Bake the empty coconut in the oven for 15 minutes, and then transfer it to a chopping board. While the coconut is still hot, split the shell with a sharp blow of a hammer. The shell should fall away from the pieces of meat. If bits of meat still cling to the shell cut them away with a small knife.

     Pare off the brown outer skin of the coconut meat with a swivel-type peeler or small, sharp knife. Then grate the meat, piece by piece, with a hand grater.

     Without removing the brown skin, cut or break the meat of the coconut into I-inch pieces and place them in the jar of an electric blender. Add ˝ cup of hot, but not boiling, water, cover the jar, and blend at high speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the jar with a rubber spatula. Continuing to blend uncovered at high speed, pour in an additional 1˝ cups of hot water in a slow stream, cover the jar, and blend until the coconut is reduced to a smooth puree.

     To make the coconut milk by hand, grate the unpeeled coconut, piece by piece, into a bowl and stir in 2 cups of hot, not boiling, water.

     Scrape the entire contents of the jar or bowl into a fine sieve lined with a double thickness of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a deep bowl. With a wooden spoon, press down hard on the coconut to extract as much liquid as possible. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together to enclose the pulp and twist the ends tightly to squeeze out the remaining liquid. There should be 2 to 2˝ cups of milk. (This same technique is always used, although the proportion of coconut to water may vary from recipe to recipe.)

     In most cases, coconut pulp is discarded after it has been squeezed dry. However, some recipes call for a second milk made by saving the pulp, returning it to the blender and repeating the entire process with 2 additional cups of hot water. The second milk is thin and less flavorful than the first.

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