Ponche: Traditional Mexican Christmas Punch

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Ponche, Mexican Christmas punch, is one of those cultural and family traditions that inspire awe. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and great-granddaughters gather in the family matriarchs kitchen, every December, to make this aromatic drink. Family recipies are passed down from one generation to another, coupled with stories of first Christmases together and struggles conquered. In the absence of familial bonds or a fifth generation secret recipe, moms and daughters bond over learning to make their own, placing the first mark on a new tradition. Ponche is magical like that.

It is also, let’s be real here, one of those things that you always remember doing as a child, unwillingly. Because, while your grandmother and mom were trying to pass on a family jewel, you just saw it as tita and mami intruding into your fun time. “We’re going to tell the story about how my grandmother cut off my great aunts eye lashes? AGAIN!” or “Do we always have to recount the tale of the day my great uncle saw an angel on the family farm?” (insert whiny voice here).

The thing is, you may dislike having to go through the indoctrination as a child. But, as an adult, you can tell those same stories by heart to your own offspring without skipping a beat. Ponche is magical like that. So are tamales, but we’ll talk about them later.

December is a magical time in my family home. We gather, we talk, we cook, we eat, we talk some more, we cook again, we eat, we wash a lot of dishes, and we cook again. Then we repeat after a Christmas movie break. For days.

Yes, I had a magical childhood. I didn’t always realize it at the time, but I did. Mexicans are a lot of things, but above all else we are family people. And December gives us an excuse to add some more family time into our calendars.

This December, Mackenzie and I are blessed to have the whole month to enjoy and partake and create new memories in Mexico. And Ponche is just one of the ways we are adding to our family history.

Let me be honest: you can go out and buy ponche. In December, it is pretty safe to say that many restaurants and supermarkets sell it. Someone recently told me you can buy a pack of Ponche powder at the supermarket and just add hot water to make it. So, there’s no NEED to make it from scratch at home (though, of course, the taste will not be the same). But, the reward of doing so, is huge. Ten, twenty years from now… one, two generations from now… you will be thankful you took the long route and made your very own batch of homemade Ponche.

Oh! You don’t know how to make Ponche? Well let me share that recipe with you! Please realize that if you google ‘Ponche Mexicano’ you will get A LOT of options and recipes for this delicious drink. You can also easily tweek it to your own tastes and preferences. Feel free to play with this recipe and let it be a guide to creating your own version. But first, go get your loved ones into the kitchen with you.

What you’ll need:

2 green apples

2 cinnamon sticks

1 handful of Jamaica leaves

1 pilonsillo

10 tejocotes

8-10 guavas (depending on their size and your preference)

2 sugar canes (you will have to peel and cut them if they don’t come like that when you purchase them. Do yourself a favor and try to find them peeled and cut).

3 1/2 gallons of water

1 orange (peeled but whole)

10 prunes (seedless)

3 large tamarinds

1 glass of red wine

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How to actually make Ponche in six easy steps:

Step 1: Take the 3 1/2 gallons of water and pour it into your pot. Make it a big pot. Add the cinnamon sticks and pilonsillo into the water and set it to boil.

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Step 2: When the water has reached a boiling point, lower the temperature to medium and add the 10 tejocotes and the two peeled, diced sugar cane sticks.

Tecojotes, washed and cleaned, go into the water whole

Tecojotes, washed and cleaned, go into the water whole

You take a whole piece of sugar cane and cut it up

You take a whole piece of sugar cane and cut it up

You want to cut each piece into three or four parts. Yes, you will need a machete like knife

You want to cut each piece into three or four parts. Yes, you will need a machete-like knife

Approximate size you want for your cut up sugar cane

Approximate size you want for your cut up sugar cane

Then you take each smaller piece, peel it, and cut it up into smaller pieces

Then you take each smaller piece, peel it, and cut it up into smaller pieces

To the right you see the cut up sugar cane pieces

To the right you see the cut up sugar cane pieces

Add the sugar cane pieces into the mix

Add the sugar cane pieces into the mix

Step 3: Five minutes after adding the tejocotes and the sugar cane add the cut up apples (2 apples, sliced).

You take the two green apples, slice them, and just add them into the water mix

You take the two green apples, slice them, and just add them into the water mix

Step 4: Five minutes after adding the apples add the rest of the ingredients (except the glass of red wine).

First, you want to work with your tamarind

First, you want to work with your tamarind

Peel off the tamarind skin and add the meat into the water

Peel off the tamarind skin and add the meat into the water

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Add the peeled whole orange, add 8-10 guavas, add 10 prunes, add 3 peeled tamarinds, and add a handful of Jamaica leaves.

Add the peeled whole orange, add 8-10 guavas, add 10 prunes, add 3 peeled tamarinds, and add a handful of Jamaica leaves.

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Step 5: Leave this mixture on medium heat for 1 hour (covered).

Your ponche will simmer for an hour, filling your whole house with an addictive aromatic heaven

Your ponche will simmer for an hour, filling your whole house with an addictive aromatic heaven

Step 6: At minute 55, add the glass of red wine into the mixture and let the ponche cook on low heat for five last minutes.

Step 7: Your ponche is ready to serve. Traditionally you add some of the fruit into your cup (not to eat, just to garnish). Some people also serve this with a stick of cinnamon to stir the ponche as they enjoy its heavenly taste.

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As you can see, Ponche is very easy to make. A little bit of washing, some peeling, and a bit of machete action and voila! Ponche Mexicano. Now go gather your loved ones, remember your favorite family stories, and go make your own ponche.

*As a side note, my daughter sat here with me to help me write this post and upload the pictures adding even more family time and bonding to this wonderful experience… ponche is magical like that.

 

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