This recipe was my maternal grandmother’s and is a tradition at holidays. It was my brother’s task to crack the nut—a job he relished—and we were often recruited to peel the coconut as well. Despite our snacking, most of the coconut usually did make it to the final dish. ‘Ambrosia’ is supposed to be the food of the gods, and this certainly is heavenly!
1 fresh coconut (or 10-12 ounces frozen shredded coconut)
6 medium seedless oranges
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
Step 1. Draining the coconut milk from the nut:
When you buy a coconut, keep the receipt. If it is bad, return it and try again. Using a knife, or one blade of a pair of scissors, or an ice pick, probe the three “eyes” on the end of the coconut until you locate the soft one. Ream a hole in this eye. Drain the coconut milk into a glass. If it has a sweet coconut smell, check the taste. If it tastes sour or moldy, there is no point in proceeding; return it to the market for another nut. If it has a fresh coconut taste, refrigerate the milk and proceed to Step 2.
Step 2. Breaking open the coconut:
After draining the coconut put it inside a clean plastic grocery bag. Then wrap this bag around the nut. Place the wrapped nut inside another plastic bag. Holding the handles, swing the bag down onto a concrete step or driveway. You could throw the bag down, or hit it with a hammer. The impact will hopefully shatter the coconut shell into several pieces. Throw the nut down several times until the nut is broken into pieces of manageable size. Open the bag and remove the coconut pieces. Coconut meat which is still attached to the shell can be separated by inserting the blade of a small sturdy knife between the meat and the shell and then giving it a twist. The meat will normally pop away from the shell. Peel off the thin brown layer of skin. Rinse the coconut meat to wash off any bits of shell. (Do NOT rinse bits of coconut shell down the sink or garbage disposal. Ask me how I know.)
Step 3 Grating the coconut
Grate the coconut with a food processor, or (what my mother always used) a meat grinder. One coconut should yield 10-12 ounces, allowing for snacking from the coconut preparers.
Step 4 Preparing the oranges
Grate the peel from one orange and set aside. Peel four oranges and slice into bite-sized pieces. Juice the remaining two oranges.
Step 5 Mixing it all together
In a 6-cup bowl, mix together the grated coconut, orange pieces, and grated orange peel.
Measure the coconut milk. Add enough fresh orange juice to make 1 cup. Stir in the juice and sugar to taste. Serve ambrosia in individual cups or bowls with spoons to catch all the delicious juice. Refrigerate up to 3 days.