“ ‘Ponche Navideño’ is the Christmas punch made from a bubbling mixture of Mexican fruits,” Mayuli Bales, director of multicultural ministries for the St. Cloud Diocese, said. “It’s the traditional treat served during Las Posadas that stands most out for me.”
“We simmer special seasonal fruits — fresh sugar cane, guavas, tejocotes and more — sometimes for several days before serving it,” Mayuli said. “So people can eat the pieces of fruit ladled into the cups with the flavorful juice, we offer them spoons. It makes my mouth water to remember those wonderful wafting aromas.”
Throughout Mexico, she said, Ponche Navideño is a symbol of Christmas — it’s offered to friends and neighbors who visit during Las Posadas.
Las Posadas is a novena, a nine-day litany of song and prayer that tells of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter. Beginning Dec. 16 and ending Christmas Eve, people go from house to house in their neighborhoods, asking for — and being denied — safe lodgings until finally hosts open their door for them. Then the pilgrims enjoy special treats, like Ponche Navideño, at the home of their hosts. NLR
8 quarts water
3 sticks cinnamon
1 1/4 (1 lb.) jars tejocotes *
2 (1 lb.) jars sugar cane (in syrup) **
5 (8 oz.) pkgs. piloncillo ***
3 pears, stems and cores removed and cut in chunks
4 sweet apples (such as Sweet Lady), cut in chunks
8 guavas, cut in half
1 lb. pitted prunes, cut in half
1 cup raisins
3 whole oranges
1/2 cup whole cloves
Brandy or rum (optional)
Place water, cinnamon sticks, tejocotes, sugar cane and piloncillo in a very large pot and bring to a boil. Add pears, apples, guavas, prunes and raisins to the pot and return to a boil. Stud the oranges with the whole cloves and add to the mixture. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat. Scoop fruits into serving cups and then ladle in the juice. (Brandy or rum or other alcoholic spirits can be added if desired.) Serve hot.
Yield: About 30 servings
A note from Nikki: Tejocotes* are small, apple-like fruits of the hawthorn tree, in season in Mexico at holiday time. Looking like orange or golden crab apples, their flavor is uniquely sweet and sour, ranging between a plum and an apricot. In Minnesota they are available at local Mexican grocery stores, bottled in syrup. Tejocotes can also be ordered online.
“Fresh sugar cane ** is juicy and sweet.” Mayuli said. “It drips down your arms when you peel it.” If it appears too dry, it can be soaked overnight and the outer bark peeled and discarded — the rehydrated core can then be chopped. In Minnesota, sugar cane is available bottled in syrup and found in Mexican grocery stores.
Piloncillo*** is an unrefined, dark brown sugar formed into cones. To substitute, use 2 1/2 lbs. dark brown sugar.
A note from Carol: Nikki Rajala, a friend and fellow copy editor at The Visitor, is the guest writer for this posting. You may remember Nikki’s “Taking Tea” series from 201l, her recipes for Honeydew Blueberry Salad and Watermelon Tomato Salad or the numerous pictures she taken of dishes featured on FFF. I appreciate her help in so many ways.