Cracking the Coconut Code – How to Chop Open Your Own Coconut

In the last post, I stressed my disappointment with commercial coconut water, as it can either fall on the spectrum of being artificially sweet or more water than coconut. Don’t get me wrong – there are some pretty solid brands that come close to the real thing. But nothing beats chopping open your own coconut and reaping the rewards inside. In this post, I’ll explore a method for extracting water from a coconut, saving you money and keeping your fingers in check!

I decided to recruit my dad for this post, as he has years of coconut chopping expertise behind him.

Picking Your Coconut

IMG_3182The coconut water that is famously consumed is found inside a “young” coconut. The colour is indicative of the age, as coconuts will follow the life path of  going from green, to yellow, and finally to brown. The kind you are probably envisioning is the deep brown variety in your local grocery store aisle, which is unhusked and dried. This is not the type that we are looking for, and although it can contain water, it is typically not used for drinking. These coconuts are good for making delicious chutney and coconut milk.

The coconut we are looking for is in its early or ‘young’ stage, which means it is green in colour. These green coconuts can be found at a West Indian or Asian grocer, although some commercial grocery stores are starting to carry them as well.

Dad’s Advice: When picking your coconut, make sure to shake it close to your ear. You are looking for a coconut where you cannot hear the water inside. Apparently this sound only appears in older coconuts, where the jelly has hardened and the water echoes against the walls.

Pre-Coconut Game

There is bound to be a lot of mess when chopping open something the size of a football. I recommend spreading some sheets of newspaper or a kitchen towel underneath the coconut. This will also add friction so the coconut does not slide when you use your blade. My Dad’s tool of choice is a machete – but for those of us who are less inclined to wield such a blade, a meat cleaver also does the trick as well.

The Incision

Steadying the end of the coconut with one hand, you want to take your blade and dig it in at around 3 inches from the opposite end.

When making this mark, apply force at a diagonal (towards the end). Swivel the blade around in the incision to make the mark wider. This will make it easier when you take the first ‘chop.’

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The First Chop

You will now raise your blade and take a ‘hack’ at the incision you created. It is very important that you ‘hack’ at a diagonal and not horizontal for two major reasons. The first reason is that you would be chopping against the grain of the coconut (the fibres run vertical). Secondly, by creating a diagonal hack you are able to get to the water in the centre without fully chopping through the coconut.

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Keep Chopping

Continue to hack at the coconut until you see whiter, softer flesh appear. Depending on your comfort level or strength, this will either take a couple or many hacks. Because the coconut is so fibrous, your blade may get stuck. Carefully remove it and continue to hack at the spot, occasionally peeling back any loose fibres.

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When the soft flesh appears, you can use your hands to peel back the softer fibres and essentially use your fingers (or knife) to poke a hole through the white flesh.

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At this point you may feel like you are done! Kick back and reap the rewards of your hard hacking, by placing a straw in the hole.

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Ready for a straw!

However, for most West Indians this is only phase one…

Phase 2 – Jelly Extraction

Carefully pour the coconut water into a wide bowl or vessel (that is, if you didn’t use a straw to consume it already).

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Placing the coconut vertically, use your cleaver to create a long vertical incision. Then, proceed to use your cleaver to come directly down on the vertical path you created. This hack is going to take a lot more force, so I would suggest keeping your other hand away.

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For me, this would take many hacks, but for my dad it only takes one or two strong hits. The trick is to take a couple of strong hacks, and then use your hands to pry it open.

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Once the coconut has successfully split in two, you can begin to scoop the jelly, which is the white, almost translucent, insides of the coconut. You would use the same motions of scooping ice cream. In this sense, I would actually recommend using an ice cream scooper. If you do not have one, you will have to recreate the same scooping motions with a spoon. However keep in mind that you are not scooping ice-cream, and you will have to use a little more force to get the white flesh to come off of the husk.

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Kick back, and Enjoy!

And Voila! You have successfully extracted both coconut water and jelly on your own. Practice makes perfect, so it will take a couple of coconuts before you can effortlessly hack one open. Enjoy your treats either separately or together, or for an added ‘kick’ add a shot of rum or vodka – because all of that hard hacking deserves a little extra reward.

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