As a food blogger, my aim is to share those tasty bites and sips I think you will find as delightful as I do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting two exceptional authors and food bloggers at a presentation at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles (Melissas.com). Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack teamed up to create a true thirst-quencher, Latin Twist, a gorgeous book filled with 97 traditional cocktail recipes from 18 Latin countries plus Spain.
At Melissa’s I was sampling five delicious “mocktails,” that is, the cocktails without alcohol. After tasting Ponche Navideno, I was enthralled with the flavors imparted by the exceptional combination of fruits, some familiar and some exotic. Not only did this festive beverage taste great, but it also emitted irresistibly sweet, spicy, and fruity aromas throughout the room. This was a recipe I knew I must share.
Don’t let the 20 servings discourage you from making this wonderfully satisfying punch. If you’re not serving a large group, you’ll have plenty for a cozy gathering of celebrants to enjoy seconds and thirds. You’ll need a large stockpot, about an 8- to 10-quart size.
Ponche Navideño is a hot punch served with or without alcohol during the holiday season and most generally during Las Posadas. On those chilly nights this fragrant infusion warms you from the inside out. The intoxicating aroma and perfumed air in your home will certainly entice your guests to give the drink a try. After that, they’re hooked. Brandy or tequila can be added, making it Ponche con Piquete (punch with a sting).
16 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
1/2 pound tejocotes or crab apples, left whole
6 large guavas, peeled and cut into large bite-size chunks
2 red apples (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks
1 pear (of your choice), peeled, cored, and cut into small bite-size chunks
2 (4-inch) sugarcane sticks, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 orange, sliced
8 ounces piloncillo, chopped, or 1 cup dark brown sugar
1 ounce brandy or tequila per cup (optional)
Place the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, tamarind pods, and tejocotes or crab apples in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. After it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the tejocotes are soft.
Remove the tejocotes or crab apples from the pot with a slotted spoon, peel, remove hard ends, cut in half, and deseed. Return them to the pot.
Add the guavas, apples, pear, sugarcane, prunes, raisins, orange slices, and piloncillo. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. Discard cinnamon sticks and cloves.
To serve, ladle into coffee cups or mugs, making sure each cup gets some chunks of fruit. If desired, add 1 ounce of brandy or tequila to each cup.
The two charming authors generously shared another warm, fruit-filled punch recipe from from Latin Twist that’s typically enjoyed at Christmas. Ponche de Frutas is similar to Ponche Navideno but has a few additional exotic flavors such as coconut, plantain, and a hint of ginger. Both can be sipped and thoroughly enjoyed with or without alcohol.
PONCHE DE FRUTAS
Makes 15 servings
3 cinnamon sticks
4 whole allspice
1-inch piece fresh ginger
5 whole cloves
2 (8-ounce) bags dried fruit mix
1 pineapple, husked, cored, and diced
1/2 medium papaya, diced
4 red apples, diced
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
3 plantains, diced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark rum (optional)
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, allspice, ginger, and cloves.
Add dried fruit mix, pineapple, papaya, apples, and coconut. Follow with prunes, raisins, plantains, and sugar. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring gently. When the fruit is cooked and sugar dissolved, remove from the heat and pour in the rum (if using).
Serve hot with some of the diced fruit.