A tough coconut to crack

This question is for anyone who lives around coconut palm trees. I have more coconuts lying around than I know what to do with, and I’d like to be able to crack them open and use them. Problem is, when they fall off the tree, they aren’t all brown and fuzzy like you see in the store, they’re encased in a hard, thick, outer shell as well. I know how to crack the INSIDE coconut and get the meat out, but are there any safe, tried and true methods for getting the outside shell off? I’m hoping for advice from someone who has actually done this, not just read what’s online.

I did this in Tahiti, so I have some experience:

First, this technique is for coconuts that have dry, brown husks.

You need some kind of an upright, long, pointy object driven into the ground, or otherwise attached in a sturdy fashion to the ground. I used a piece of rebar driven into the ground. Than bash the coconut onto the point so that it pierces the husk. Twist sideways, and a big hunk of husk will be dislodged, which you can grab and rip off of the nut inside. Continue bashing the husk on the pointy thing until you can rip off all the husk.

Oh, great idea! I’m going to see if I find anything already sticking out that I can use. If not, I’ll install something for the task. Excellent!

I’m surprised that you didn’t find lawyers lurking in the palm trees waiting for someone to injure themselves on the hazard which you created. :wink:

Tahitians are well known Libertarians.

In Mexico the monkey boys that we pay to get the coconuts off the tree in the back yard will optionally open them for you. They just use a machete.

The brownish coconuts will have more mature ‘meat’ in them, the green ones will have milk, which is good for haupia. Use a machete and be careful. There is no easy way. There is no trick. Get through some of the husk and then start yanking, then if it’s a brown nut crack it open-- the meat will still be hard to remove-- you might use a standard screwdriver or chisel and hammer. If it’s the green ones, use a screwdriver and a hammer to pop a couple of the natural ‘bowling ball’ holes to get the milk out. At your own risk you can try to lop off an end with the machete. Watch your fingers, cowboy.
– grew up in Hawaii

eta: Ah, Fear Itself’s technique isn’t bad, either.

This has been bugging me for a while. I was told that the milk was squeezed from the meat. The liquid inside the coconut is the water. Or isn’t it? And then where does the oil come from? The only thing I know about coconut milk is it’s white and milky and comes from a can with Thai writing on it. Coconut water I’ve ordered by the pitcher, or ordered mixed with gin right inside the coconut (good for the heat, by the way). I’ve never actually seen coconut oil in a store, but all the junk food has it or “may” contain it.

Coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat, called copra. The copra is ground up and oil is extracted either by boiling in water or simply pressing it out. It looks like vegetable oil, which it is. Coconut milk is made by pressing fresh coconut meat. Coconut water is the clear liquid found in young green coconuts. You can get it simply by cracking one open. It’s sweet and clear and doesn’t look or taste like coconut milk at all.

With a simple pocketknife you can cut and lift a good section of the hull. Then, starting at the point and tearing a strip at a time you can get the nut. It took me two frosty beverages, but I did a dozen like this in St Croix for the coconut water and meat for cooking.

Those were the best kind, the green ones. I was the guest of a fella in Tahiti who could whack the top off a green coconut with one swipe of a machete without spilling the water inside, and whittle the top into a spoon with two deft cuts. Then he gave it to me to enjoy the meat inside, which, in a green coconut is a clearish gelatinous substance, sweet and rich, very unlike the hard white meat found in a dry brown coconut. Delicious.

Ok, interesting. I always just thought the ‘water’ was real coconut milk and related to canned coconut milk in the same way real coconut is related to the sugared shredded stuff in the baking aisle next to the chocolate chips.

We just whack off each end of the husk and then cut a small hole in one end with a machete. I just knocked down over 40 large coconut palms and we drank our fill of fresh coconut water. Then we split them in half and with a small piece of husk scoop out the inside which is still gelatinous. Very refreshing when toiling under the hot midday sun.

Tools? We don’t need no stinkin’ tools!

Grew up in the Miami area. Coconuts all around, and free, so a common treat. All you need to do is throw the thing into the asphalt a dozen times or so and it’ll split. (For an adult, doubtless would take fewer strikes.) From there, it’s easy to peel off one-third of the husk, then a second; the last third usually was tough, because there was nothing on the nut against which to brace, but we usually managed. From there, a screwdriver (okay, one small tool) through two of the eyes to drain the water, then whack the shell to crack open.

In a sense, the trickier thing always was separating the coconut from the shell. Or, more to the point, the inner skin of the shell. Separating the inner skin from the outer shell is fairly easy with the afore-mentioned screwdriver. In truth, we usually ended up just breaking up the pieces into smaller one and chewing off the coconut. Turns out, this is nearly the best method. But the best method requires a tool. Asian kitchen stores sell a semi-circular rasp with which one grates off the coconut while still attached to the shell (the larger the pieces, the better). I find a sturdy butter curler easier to use.

Having grown up with coconut trees all around me, I actaully feel qualified to answer a question for once. In essence, there are two parts to cracking this: getting the husk off, and opening up the coconut shell itself.

If the coconut is tender and you want to drink it straight, you can use a machete (carefully) to slice off the husk and then lop a bit off the shell at the top. The first part of this process should end with the coconut looking something like this.

If, on the other hand, the object is to remove the husk (usually from a semi-dried coconut) with the object of storing the nut itself, you need the technique that Fear Itself suggested. My grandfather had a rather clever device made, which I used frequently. It’s hard to describe, but was a metal plate that sat on the ground with a long vertical bar rising out of it. At the tip of the bar were two sharpened points, one fixed and the other attached to a handle. The coconut was bashed onto the points, so they entered the husk, and then the handle was lifted, levering the points apart and ripping the husk away. I’m sure you could accomplish something similar with just a metal bar, but this device was rather neat, and it was certainly more efficient - I had to do a couple of hundred coconuts every time we got the man in to pluck the trees, and doing it by hand would have taken a very long time indeed.

Wow, some forty-year-old memories surfacing here. We have some photos about the family home of my Dad sitting on the edge of the verandah in our house in Singapore, gradually reducing the outside of a husked coconut with a machete. Scary to think that at the time Dad was years younger than I am now!