For this colder days…Mexican Christmas Ponche!!

poster_mexicano_del_arte_popular_del_navidad-ref96621475004a4b889ae30dc74a9500_fbw3_400When the winter is close and the days are colder, my Grandma Meyín used to make ponche to us. The smell of it spread all over the house, and a warm, cozy feeling of security was install in my heart.

Ponche is a warm tropical-fruit punch. It’s traditional in Mexico during Christmastime. Vendors sell it at night near the sidewalk Christmas markets. It’s also served with buñuelos during the posadas.

No one seems to know exactly how and why Mexican ponche materialized. In general, historians seem to agree that the punch concept originated in India, where English sailors took a liking to it and brought to Europe. The Spaniards (or the French?) must have carried the tradition to Mexico.

Today, the base of Mexican ponche comprises piloncillo, a dark-brown unrefined cane sugar, mixed with water and cinnamon sticks. To that, you can add pretty much any winter fruits you want: apples, oranges, guavas, tejocotes.

The latter two are key. Tejocotes are small, speckled orange fruits with an apple-pear taste, and their soft flesh turns almost creamy while soaking in the ponche.

Guavas lend just the right amount of tang and citrusy perfume. The smell of guavas cooking with cinnamon and sugar is intoxicating!!

The recipe I share with you here is my grandma’s, but I´ve tasted and seen different versions, with prunes, apple, etc. Remember the secret ingredient is love and laughs when you make it. With those two, everything you cook will be healing for your soul!

If you like — and we do, in our house — a little nip of brandy, rum or tequila, feel free to add it in. Just make sure to serve the cups with a spoon, so everyone can dig into their  fruits.

Recipe below.

Piloncillo
Piloncillo

Note: If you don’t have piloncillo, you can substitute brown sugar. If you can’t find sugar cane, just leave it out.

The amount of water depends on how thick you like your ponche. Once the fruit starts to cook, the mixture will thicken — feel free to add more water to thin it out. Ponche also reheat

 

s beautifully on the stove, thinned with a little water. It will keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for at least a week.

To cut piloncillo: Grab the thick end of cone and slice with a knife. It’ll require some force on your end, but it should work. (The piloncillo should not be so hard that you can’t cut it.) You could also try scraping it along a box grater. Don’t put the cone in the food processor, or it might break your machine.

Ingredients

2 liters water* (see note)
2 cinnamon sticks, about 6 inches long
10 ounces tejocotes, left whole
10guavas,  cut into bite-sized pieces
150 gr peanuts
2 four-inch pieces of sugar cane, peeled and cut into thin strips
6 to 8 ounces piloncillo or dark brown sugar (this equals about one average cone)
Rum, brandy or tequila (optional)

Directions

Bring water and cinnamon sticks to a boil in a large pot. Add the tejocotes and lower the flame. Cook over a slow, rolling boil until the tejocotes are soft, about five minutes.

Remove the fruit from the pot, let cool and then peel the skin off with your fingers. (It should come off easily.) Cut the tejocotes in half, and remove and discard the seeds.

Once they’ve been peeled and de-seeded, place the tejocotes back into your pot of cinnamon-water and add the remaining ponche ingredients. Stir to combine and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. If you’re adding alcohol, pour it into the pot right before serving time.

To serve the ponche, remove the cinnamon sticks and ladle directly into mugs, making sure to include the chunks of cooked fruit. The strips of sugar cane can be served directly into the cup, to suck on after you’re finished drinking.

Ponche Mexicano Navideño / Mexican Christmas Ponche
Ponche Mexicano Navideño / Mexican Christmas Ponche
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