December is one of my favorite months: everything is filled with red, green, white, silver- and in Mexico you also see a lot of orange, yellow and blue. It is also the month of las posadas, candies, piñatas, and the time of the year that you reunite with family and friends. For those not familiar with posadas here is a brief explanation.
My best memories growing up were of posadas. When my mother would dress me as a little shepard and we would crack the piñata, pick up all the candies, sing, and eat tamales and drink a lot of ponche.
The ponche: I remember always picking out all the fruit and drinking the juice like it was water! I loved the warm and inviting smell of sugar and cinnamon that filled the house. So, I thought why not recreate those memories and make my own ponche?
First step, trying to find all the ingredients in a city like New York! It’s not exactly known as a city that readily carries rare Latin American ingredients. If I was at home in Mexico, all the ingredients would be easily found on carts right around my house. Here, my project of making “ponche” in the city would be a challenge. It requires a special trip to Sunset Park in Brooklyn on the slowest subway line in the city (the R train for those familiar). But, thankfully I was able to find everything! Tejocotes, sugar cane, guavas, piloncillo, prunes, apples, pears, grapes, and wonderful Mexican cinnamon (which is more rustic than the American version).
The process is very simple, but long I should warn you. I should also warn you that peeling the sugar cane will destroy your hands! But, I will admit that through all the work, it was completely worth bringing up all those childhood memories. Enjoy!
Serves 20 people
4 liters, water
2 sticks of cinnamon, preferably Mexican
8 whole cloves
¼ kilos tejocotes or crab apples
6 large guavas, or 8 small ones, quartered
2 red apples, peeled and cored, diced
1 pear, peeled and cored
2 sugar canes, 10-12 centimeters long, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cup prunes, pitted
½ cup white grapes
1 orange cut into slices
1 cone of piloncillo, cut into pieces, or 1 cup of dark sugar
brandy or tequila (optional)
First, bring the water, tejocotes, cinnamon and cloves to a boil in a large stockpot. You can use a bouqet garni for the cloves so they are easier to remove later. Once it all comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, until the tejocotes are soft.
Remove the tejocotes from the liquid, remove the skins and seeds. Add them back to the simmering liquid along with the guavas, apples, pears, pieces of sugar cane, prunes, oranges, grapes and piloncillo. Stir well and let simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.
Now, if you want you can remove the cinnamon sticks but I like to grind them (and I know a lot of other people who also like to, so you can either remove them or grind them and return them to the pot). Also, remove the cloves- if not you may have some unhappy guests with broken teeth!
Serve the ponche, fruit and all, in mugs (glass mugs are wonderful for presentation!). The best part of the ponche is to add a shot of alcohol, either tequila or brandy.