Mexican Ponche Navideño
Makes about 30 servings
It looks like a bubbling pot of hot fruit salad. It smells like heaven. It's a classic symbol of Christmas.
Every traditional Mexican Hot Ponche recipe calls for fresh tejocotes. In Mexico, you can find them in the market at this time of year. In the rest of North America and Europe--good luck! In the past, they were nearly impossible to find. Now you can sometimes buy them in Mexican grocery stores. Some food brands now sell bottled tejocotes.
The texture is more gelatinous, but they'll work. You may also be able to order them online. If the search comes up empty, you can come reasonably close by substituting fresh kumquats or yellow plums.
Two other standard ingredients in ponche recipes are fresh sugar cane and piloncillo, dark brown sugar formed into cones. These are both becoming more common in American supermarkets and specialty stores.
8 quarts water
1 lb tejocotes
3 whole oranges
2 lbs sugar cane
1 lb pitted prunes
1 C. raisins
6 oz walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 sticks cinnamon
1/2 C. whole cloves
2 1/2 lb. piloncillo
3 C. brandy or rum (optional)
In a medium saucepan, bring one quart of water to a boil. Add the tejocotes, lower the heat and simmer for 6-8 minutes until softened. Remove the fruit, peel and cut off the hard ends.
Prepare the fruits: Peel the sugar cane and slice it into medallions. Remove the stems and cores from the pears and cut into large chunks. Cut the guavas and prunes in half. Stud the oranges with the whole cloves. Cut the cone of piloncillo into large chunks.
In a very large pot (like your grandma used to use for canning), bring the remaining water to a boil. Add all the fruits and nuts to the pot and bring it back to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for one-half hour, stirring gently now and then. Add the piloncillo and cinnamon. Simmer for another half hour.
Remove from heat. Ladel into cups, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit and nuts. Add rum or brandy to each cup as desired.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Chef Martin Lopez