To open a fresh coconut, place it on a rack or in a bowl in the sink. Tap it repeatedly with the back of a cleaver all the way around the middle of the coconut. Rotate the coconut as you tap: soon a crack will appear, then the coconut will break in half. Save the coconut water that falls into the bowl it’s great for drinking or cooking rice. Now, wrap the coconut halves in a kitchen towel and break into pieces with a hammer. Using a paring knife, pry the meat from the shell. (If it’s hard to get out, bake the pieces in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes.) Trim the brown skin off the meat. Grate the coconut on a hand grater or in the food processor, using the grating blade.
If you’re not going to use all the coconut, place it (either in chunks or grated) in a plastic bag and refrigerate up to 2 days. To keep fresh longer, wrap the prepared coconut in plastic and then in aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 2 months. The average coconut when grated yields about 5 cups.
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