For many years now, when Christmas time arrives I get this memory of a sweet and fruity punch. The memory isn’t very clear but I remember that it was red, had fruit pieces in it, and that it smelled just like Christmas.
People here (like everywhere else) have been gearing up for navidad. The grocery stores, markets, restaurants, and all sorts of business have got decorations and special meals to represent the season. If you walk into a grocery store you’ll see the poinsettias displayed alongside the traditional Christmas meal ingredients. There are dried corn husks and banana leaves for tamales, chilies, masa harina, salted cod, cider, nuts, and all of the fruity ingredient one needs to make ponche navideño or Christmas punch.
It wasn’t until I saw the display for the punch that it dawned on me that this was the warm drink I had been thinking about. There before me were all of the ingredients I needed.
One of the integral ingredients for the punch is tejocotes. This little orange-red-yellow fruits resemble tiny apples. They are hard and when you bite into a raw one the taste is bitter — borderline astringent. Though they resemble crabapples they are actually a different classification of fruit. You can find them in the Mexican/Latin isle in your grocery store or you can even buy them raw or jarred from Amazon. The rest of the punch ingredients are quite straightforward so you shouldn’t have any problems finding them.
- 2 litres or 8.5 cups of filtered water
- 100 grams of piloncillo (or replace with dark brown sugar and adjust to taste)
- 1 large stick of Mexican cinnamon
- 200 gm tejocotes
- 2 guavas weighing 175 grams in total
- 1 red apple with a weight of 180 gm
- 100 grams pitted
- 50 grams tamarind
- small handful hibiscus flowers
- 2 cloves
- rum or brandy or red wine
- Throughly clean the tejocotes (if using jarred drain and rinse), guavas, and apple. Place the piloncillo (or sugar), and cinnamon stick in a large pot; then pour in the water. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the piloncillo breaks down. Next add the tejocotes and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Now add all other remaining ingredients, cover the pot, and over low heat simmer for 45 minutes. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary. Serve with a few pieces of fruit in each mug.
- If you'd like to spike your punch add the amount of alcohol desired either to the pot or to each individual serving.
The aroma is insanely delicious and so iconic of the season. It smells like Christmas in a mug. The taste is fruity, sweet, cinnamony, and there are slight tart undertones. Not one ingredients overpowers the other. The combination is stellar.
¡Salud! And a very Merry Christmas y ¡Feliz Navidad! to you and yours!