I love coconut. In fact my first childhood memories center around coconut. I was four years old, my family had just moved to Brazil, living in an apartment in Porto Alegre. The highlight of my week was when the ice cream man came around. I could hear his car from the top stories. He sold all kinds of ice cream but once I tried the coconut I couldn't think of anything else. So even now I'm a succor for anything with coconut. Since then I have mastered the art of cracking into one which takes no brains, just a little guts, time and muscle.
You can do this one of two ways: Take the coconut outside (which is what I usually do) and set it on the concrete walk. Hit it with a hammer a few times until it breaks open. You can also set the entire coconut on a baking sheet and take it to a 350 oven and let it sit in there for 15 or 20 minutes until deep cracks develop but you still need to take a hammer or meat mallet to it to break it open. A clear liquid will spill out but it is of no use to us so let it go. It doesn't even stain the concrete.
Break it into several smaller, manageable pieces (once again using a hammer or a meat mallet). Using a butter knife, pry the meat away from the hard shell. This does take a little effort and aim but it does get easier after a few pieces. It's just a little unnerving the first time.
Then, with a vegetable peeler peel away the dark skin from the white meat. Rinse all the pieces and throw them into a blender cup with 2 cups of boiling water.
Put the lid on the cup and blend until quite fine. This could take a bit of time depending on the strength of your motor.
Pour contents through a sieve that is set atop a bowl. The sieve will stop the grated meat and the coconut "milk" will pass through to the bowl.
Squeeze all the grated coconut and squeeze as hard as you can to remove any extra milk. If the coconut is too hot to handle let it sit for a few minutes before squeezing. After you have squeezed each handful take that amount and drop it onto an ungreased baking sheet.
What you have left is the coconut milk, which is in the bowl and then the grated, unsweetened coconut in the sieve. Spread the coconut evenly over the baking sheet and cover it with a clean towel or paper towels. Let it sit out on the counter for a few days to dry. After it's dry transfer it to an airtight container and use in any recipe. Because it is so fine you may want to reduce the amount a recipe calls for by 1/4 or 1/3.
The milk can be used in curries, soups, puddings, custards or for fresh coconut ice cream, which has to be the best food in the world!