Mexican Fruit Ponche Navideño
Mexican Christmas Fruit Punch (Ponche Navideño)
Makes about 30 servings
Growing up in Mexico City, the simmering of this Fruit Ponche Navideño and aroma brings me strong childhood Christmas holiday memories, the excitement of family and friends coming together, and the culture, colors, sounds and fragrances from all the food that is traditional served this time of the year brings me echoes of my memories.
This Mexican Christmas punch, is a hot fruit punch served with or without alcohol during the Christmas holiday season in Mexico, traditionally served in rustic clay “jarritos” or clay cups that are excellent for hot or cold beverages.
Ponche Navideño is served most generally during “Las Posadas” Posada is a Spanish word for “inn,” and the Posadas Navideñas, which recall events leading up to the Nativity of Jesus, are a centerpiece of Christmas traditions in Mexico. There is usually at least one Posada taking place in a neighborhood of every town on every night between the 16th and 24th of December.
On those chilly nights, this warm and fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out.
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. Mexican hawthorn. It is native to the mountains of Mexico.
In Mexico, you can find fresh tejocotes almost in every market this time of the year. In the rest of North America and Europe, you can sometimes buy them fresh in Mexican or specialty grocery stores and some food brands now sell frozen and bottled tejocotes. Also, 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 also becoming more common in American supermarkets and specialty stores.
8 quarts water
1 lb fresh tejocotes
3 whole fresh oranges
8 fresh guavas
2 lbs sugar cane sticks
1 lb pitted prunes
3 fresh pears
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 or sticks. 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. Ladle into a jarrito or a cup, 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