Ponche Navideño recipe (Christmas Punch)

Ponche Navideño (Christmas Punch) is a warm tropical-fruit punch, it’s traditionally imbibed in Mexico during Christmas. Vendors sell it at night near the sidewalk Christmas markets. It’s also served with buñuelos during the posadas.

No one seems to know exactly how and why Mexican ponche materialized. In general, historians seem to agree that the punch concept originated in India, where English sailors took a liking to it and brought to Europe. The Spaniards (or the French?) must have carried the tradition to Mexico.

Today, the base of Mexican ponche comprises piloncillo, a dark-brown unrefined cane sugar, mixed with water and cinnamon sticks. To that, you can add pretty much any winter fruits you want: apples, oranges, guavas, tejocotes. (SRC:  Lesley Téllez, a food writer and culinary guide)

¾ pound small apples or tejocotes, peeled and sliced
10 guavas, halved
½ pound raisins or prunes or a mixture of both
6 oranges, scrubbed and sliced with rind
1 cup jamaica (dried hibiscus) flowers
4 pieces sugar cane stalk, peeled and cut into strips (see note)
3 sticks cinnamon, each about 6 inches long
7 quarts water

sugar to taste (the usual proportion is 1/3 cup to each quart of water)
brandy, rum or red wine to taste (optional)

Place the apples, guavas, raisins or prunes, oranges, sugar cane and cinnamon in a large stockpot with the water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add sugar to taste, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. If adding brandy or other alcohol, add and simmer a few minutes longer. Serve hot in mugs. Serves 16-18.

Note: If sugar cane is unavailable, increase the amount of sugar added.

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