Holiday Ponche Guatemala
Ponche, or punch in English, is the quintessential holiday drink in Guatemala and other Latin countries. I must say that some of the best ponches I have ever tasted have been at people’s homes during the Dec. 16-24 posada season (Las Posadas), which recreates Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage in Bethlehem.
As a much-cherished and sought-after comforting drink by the young and old during the holiday season, ponche is not only enjoyed during Las Posadas, but also at parties that celebrate anything during this joyous time, be it family gatherings or events up to the New Year. The symbolic drink bonds Christian tradition and people in a special way.
The hot fruit drink, which varies by maker, can contain from a few to many ingredients. The base is usually fresh pineapple chunks and dried fruit bits and a traditional combination of mulling spices that are simmered gently until aromatic. It is a magic drink that fills the air with the spirit of the season.
I make ponche at home in the United States to keep the tradition alive and to share my culture with friends and acquaintances. It is that something that I must have to truly feel the warmth and cheer of the holidays that reconnects me to home.
I have perfected my ponche recipe through the years while cooking with punch experts like my sister, Gilda, and every time I make it, it’s a déjà vu moment.
Drink ponche hot with piquete (spiked), although it’s not a requirement. Some Guatemalans add aguardiente (fiery water), a popular and low-cost sugar cane-based alcohol, while others may add white rum. I like to add dark or XO Zacapa Centenario for a gourmet touch.
While the drink is traditionally served hot, it certainly tastes delicious cold too. Serve it in clear mugs with a teaspoon. Sip it slowly and eat some of the fruit in between for a great sensorial experience.
Many Guatemalan homes make large batches of ponche to enjoy during the entire holiday season and to entertain relatives and close friends who casually drop by during this time. While ponche de piña (pineapple ponche) is the most popular, ponche de leche (milk punch) is equally delicious alone or spiked and another option.
If you are starting to plan your holiday menu, pair it with ponche de piña. I promise that you will not be disappointed. It is as easy as throwing everything into a Crockpot and waiting until the aroma lures you in—as in Bugs Bunny following a scent of carrots!
¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!
PONCHE DE FRUTAS
Fresh Pineapple and Dried Fruits Holiday Punch
Recipe by Chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard (AmaliaLLC.com)
The aromas that permeate the kitchen when you’re making ponche de frutas scream “Christmas!” You can make this punch with just pineapple or with other fresh and dried fruits. There’s no more festive and scrumptious drink for entertaining guests or serving with Tamales Navideños (Christmas tamales) during the holidays. It keeps for days in the refrigerator.
Serves 4 to 6 people
3 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup finely chopped pineapple
1/4 cup diced apples
1/4 cup diced peaches
1/2 cup sliced dried fruits
2 tablespoons raisins
6 sliced dried pitted prunes
Guatemalan dark rum or Indita (Guatemalan sugarcane aguardiente) or other rum of choice (optional)
Enclose all the spices in a 4 by 4-inch piece of cheesecloth. Tie with kitchen twine, leaving a long string. Tie the string to the handle of a medium saucepan and place the sachet inside the pan.
Add the water and sugar to the pan and bring to a quick boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until aromatic (about 10 minutes).
Add all the fresh and dried fruits and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust sweetness or spices, if needed.
Serve the punch in mugs with bits of fruit and some rum, if you like.
You can make this punch in a Crockpot. Simply combine all ingredients in the Crockpot and set it on high. When the punch is aromatic, adjust the heat to the lowest setting, and let it sit until you’re ready to serve it. The punch tastes even better on day two.
Amalia Moreno-Damgaard is an award-winning bestselling chef author born and raised in Guatemala City currently living in the Twin Cities. She provides individuals and companies with a taste and understanding of Latin cultures through healthy gourmet cuisine education, consulting, bilingual speaking and writing and fun culinary experiences. Her cookbook “Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen-Gourmet Cuisine With A Cultural Flair” has won 9 international awards. AmaliaLLC.com