Who doesn’t love a festive fruit punch? Come Christmastime in Mexico, the air is sweet with the aroma of ponche navideno, a warm, spiced fruit punch served traditionally on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). During the posadas, the nine-day period leading up to Christmas Day, street vendors serve mugs of steaming ponche to passers-by.
Typically, Mexican ponche combines seasonal fruits with water, spices and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), but everyone makes it differently. Some choose to use fresh plums, pineapple and grapes instead of apple and pear. Others will add hibiscus flowers, walnuts and lemon. If you can’t find piloncillo, you can use brown sugar instead. The same thing goes for the sugar cane sticks and tejocates (a crab apple-like fruit). Add a splash of rum or brandy, or keep your ponche alcohol-free – it’s all up to you! Half the fun is experimenting and tasting, but the following recipe is a good place to start.
12 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup tejocates from jar, drained and chopped
1 apple, chopped (sweet apples, like Pink Ladies, are better)
1 pear, chopped
2 sugar cane sticks, peeled and cut into strips
1/2 cup pitted prunes, halved
1/4 cup raisins
1 cone piloncillo OR 1 cup dark brown sugar
A splash of rum or brandy (optional)
In a large pot, bring the water and cinnamon sticks to the boil. Add the tejocotes and turn the heat down to a slow boil, cooking until soft.
Remove the tejocotes from the pot, let them cool and peel off the skin using your fingers. Cut the fruit in half and remove the seeds.
Stick the cloves into the peel of the orange and cut into quarters.
Add the tejocotes back to the pot and stir in the rest of the ingredients (except the alcohol, if using), including the clove-studded orange quarters. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the piloncillo. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about around 45 minutes, or until the flavours are infused and fruit is cooked.
If adding alcohol, add it to the pot just before serving.
Remove the cinnamon sticks and ladle the punch into mugs, making sure you include lots of fruit and even strips of sugar cane (delicious to suck on). Drink up – ponche is most delicious when served hot!
Feature image c/o Raluy Schneider, Flickr.
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