Christmas without a warm mug of ponche, is just not Christmas!
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.
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Mexican Christmas Punch or Ponche Navideño
- 2 litres or 8.5 cups of filtered water
- half a cup of piloncillo if not available replace with dark brown sugar and adjust to taste
- 2 stick of Mexican cinnamon
- 9 tejocotes
- 3 guavas weighing chopped into large even-sized pieces
- 3 small apples chopped into large even-sized pieces
- 100 grams or around 12 pitted prunes
- 2 pods of tamarind peeled
- large handful hibiscus flowers known as jamaica in the Hispanic food isle
- 3 whole cloves
For Alcoholic version:
- 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, prunes, hibiscus, cloves, guavas and cover allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Now add the tamarind, a little more water and the apples. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat simmer for 10 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. Serve warm or cold.
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!