My mom is the best cook I know.
Growing up in Mexico City, she used to make the most incredible ponche, or warm fruit punch, every New Year’s Eve. Just once a year.
My sisters and I used to pace up and down the kitchen as she peeled, diced and threw the ingredients – many of which were only available at this time of year in the markets – into a gigantic pot. To tame our impatience she would peel a few pieces of the fresh sugar cane meant to go into that pot, and cut it into smaller sticks, so we could chew and suck its sweetly tangy juice, ever so slowly, as we waited for the ponche to be served.
Coincidentally, the ponche was always ready as guests were about to walk in the door. Then, she would start ladling the ponche into big mugs as we each called out our requests. I asked for extra sugar cane and tejocotes, or crabapples, one of my sisters asked to have hers without raisins, another with no fruit but just the punch liquid, and another with extra fruit and no prunes.
After the kids were served, she would grab the bottle of rum and spike the ponche for the grown ups. Everyone held their cups with both hands, trying to sip as steam covered their faces with each attempt, as it used to be served so very hot.
As life sometimes goes, my parents divorced. A long time ago, actually. I must have been fourteen or so. Since then, my mom has only made ponche once for New Years Eve, at my in-laws in the small town of Valle de Bravo, after my oldest son was born. It was as crazy good a ponche, as ever.
I am very lucky though. Although my parents are divorced, and I don’t get to spend New Year’s with all my sisters and their families and my parents, as if they were a couple still, we get together as often as we can. We are all growing old, of course, but everyone is still here, tagging along.
Most years, I get to spend New Year’s with my in-laws and my husband’s entire family. Although they don’t make ponche, my mother-in-law makes one mean tamal casserole, and all her grandchildren (they are so many!) have a blast. This year, I am planning on making for them my mom’s New Year’s punch. Maybe my mom will come visit, one never knows.
I am even more lucky, and you are too, because I called my mom yesterday morning to get some extra details on the recipe.
So… I am sharing the recipe with you to say gracias. Thank you for allowing me to come into your homes with my recipes and stories. Thank you for taking the time to write and say hi. Thank you for sharing with me your stories; for telling me what you have tried or hope to try in your kitchen. Also for telling me what you don’t want to try.
Because food connects us all. And because the ponche tasted almost as sweet yesterday when I made it for my boys, as when my mom used to make it for her girls. I hope it tastes even sweeter to you, for whomever and whenever you decide to make it.
With my best wishes for the new year and with all my gratitude,
P.S. This recipe is to start you off. You can also use any other fruits you fancy. Pears are great, so is pineapple. Other fresh and dried fruits, and even nuts, work their wonders when being simmered all together in a warm drink with a base of piloncillo and the cinnamon.
New Year’s Warm Fruit Punch
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- 8 ounces tejocotes or crabapples fresh or preserved
- 3 quarts (12 cups) water
- 2 true or ceylon cinnamon sticks
- 8 ounces piloncillo about 1 cup packed if grated, or dark brown sugar
- 1 pound sugarcane peeled and cut into pieces of 4" to 5” in height and ½" width, or thawed from frozen
- 8 ounces yellow Mexican guavas cut into bite-sized chunks, or thawed frozen
- 2 apples of your choice peeled, cored, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup dried apricots roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins or to taste
- Rind of an orange
- 1/2 cup rum sugar cane liquor, brandy or tequila, optional
- In a medium saucepan, bring a couple cups water to a boil. Add the tejocotes, remove from heat and let them sit for 5 minutes, drain. If using the preserved tejocotes, just drain. Once cool enough to handle, peel them, cut them in half and discard their seeds.
- In a large pot or clay pot, pour 12 cups water with the cinnamon and piloncillo, set over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and add the sugar cane, along with the guavas, apples, prunes, apricots, raisins and tejocotes. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Add the orange rind and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- If you will take your ponche spiked, this is when you add the rum. Stir and cover until ready to serve.
- Discard the cinnamon and orange rind before serving. Serve in mugs, trying to add a bit of each fruit.
45comments inPonche: Or My Mom’s New Year’s Warm Fruit Punch
Dahlila Marquez in Phoenix. AZ
I am going to try to make this Ponche on Christmas Eve at my family gathering. Thank you Pati
How did it come out? 🙂
Pati, thank you so much for the backstop to this recipe. Your warmth shines through the TV screen as well as in your writing. My family would jump at a chance to share the holidays with you and yours.
This is very sweet of you Adriana, mil gracias!
“Because food connects us all.” This is the first time I have read one of your recipes and that quote has me hooked!
Oh thank you so much René!
Ponche! Brings back such good memories: cold nights, pastoreas, family, Christmas and my mom preparing ponche, or “calientitos” as she called it. I just can smell the sweet fruity aroma! yum. And the first question….do you want it with piquete? I can definetly have some now.
I’m ready to make it! I just have never seen tejocotes in the US. I think I’ll start looking for some.
Thank you for sharing.
So happy that it brings back such good memories for you, Marcia. And thank you for sharing some of those memories with me.
Thank you so much for this recipe. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Felíz Navidad y próspero Año nuevo.
Gracias, Vanessa! Have a very happy holiday and New Year.
Thank you so much for sharing such a special treat! Saving to recreate over New Years Eve!
Have a very Happy New Year, Jenella!
Robin the Shipwreck
Did you miss spell ‘1/2 cup’ for the spirits?
Should it be 1/2 liter???
Sounds muy delish…and, by the by, your story here, as many of your stories, are packed with history (family, cultural and nationality…to name a few), tradition AND the. Best. Mexican. Food. (Sans Carne Asada Burritos from San Diego!?)
…and recipes we (your fans) can all manipulate and share.
What’s next??? Monterey, NL, Jalisco, Chihuahua…
Best wishes toward your future endeavors…I’ll be waiting!
Love. Your. Show. !!!
Oh I’m working on what will be next now…stay tuned, Robin.
Looking forward to trying some of these great recipes!!!
Also, like the new photo of you!!! Very cool…
Oh thanks Boyd!
Thank you,Pati for this recipe…I love some ponche now that it’s cold out.Gracias.
P.S. And Happy New Year
Happy New Year Anne!
I love ponche!! Muchas Gracias for sharing this recipe!! I wanted to do Punche Navideno ever since I had some at an amiga’s house. This recipe is almost exact! I can’t wait to make this for mi familia!!
Pati, me hiciste un nudo en la garganta, que historia! Gracias por compartirla.
Con mucho gusto, Tania.
Pati – 2 years ago i decided to try and make this ponche during Christmas time. My sister and I ran around town looking for all the ingredients and luckily found most of them. Somehow, it came out like some sort of science experiment and tasted awful. I think i over cooked it and it came out bitter.
Anyway, this year I am determined to try again and will have to use your recipe this time.
Thx for passing along
What a treasure this recipe is, and your Mother. Many thanks for making sure it continues on with those of us unlucky to have ever had it… yet!
Thank you! 🙂
Gracias por la receta! Likewise, I was born and raised in Mexico and since I moved to the U.S. I have found food to be a way to stay connected with mis raices and to share my traditions with my family. This year, I had tremendous nostalgia for posadas y ponche, so your recipe couldn’t come at a better time. Mi hija and my husband LOVED the ponche and I felt as warm as I did at home, surrounded by a boisterous family and enjoying a very tasty Nochebuena.
So happy you are keeping up your food traditions! Thank you for making my recipe for your family!!
I want to thank you for posting this recipe and sharing this with others. I am hoping to try this ponche at New Year’s for my family. I lost my mother 6yr ago and she was the cook of the house. She filled the house with WONDERFUL aromas especially when she fixed a homemade mexican meal. This was a rarity since my dad is american and that’s how we ate most nights. I miss her so and wish I could have written more of her recipes down before she passed. She was not a measurer so it was tough when I did ask for a recipe. This ponche I hope will bring new memories and old ones for myself and my children as well.
Hola Samantha, Thank you so much for your message! Loved hearing about your mother! I hope everyone enjoys the ponche on New Years!!
Pati casualmente di con tu sitio buscando una receta de un pay y q me encuentro esta delicia, en mi niñez mi abuelita en epoca navideña (tambien solo en esta epoca)nos lo hacia….Le llamabamos *calientitos* , Gracias por compartirnos esta delicia.
Con gusto, Judy!
Pimienta gorda (allspice) tambien. Entre mas especies mas aromatico y sabroso.
En mi casa le agregaban ciruelas pasas, le dan un color mas obscuro al ponche.
Si, el verdadero ponche lleva tamarindo y Jamaica y no manzanas. Con un toque: una especie.
Jaja, no pues de verdadero ponche a verdadero ponche: hay muchas versiones! También queda deli con jamaica y tamarindo. Qué especie le pones, anís estrella?
I wait the whole year for the Holidays, only to have this delicious traditional drink from Mexico… Our friends from different nationalities enjoy it a lot! Felices Fiestas Paty! En casa le ponemos jamaica y tamarindo a la base y es delicioso, pero tendré que probar tu receta, yommmmmm
Que rico con jamaica y tamarindo, Anel, felices fiestas!
Stupid question, but do you eat the fruit that is in the punch. Being half Mexican, Christmas Eves consist of, among other food, tamales and chumpuraddo, but it is made with flour instead of the cornmeal, just like my late grandma used to make it. We are doing a Mexican theme this year, and this punch sounded interesting. But, I’m wondering what one does with the fruit–eat it or not? Thank you. By the way, my daughter and I LOVE your show and we watch it everyday when it is on. Lately, your show is only one once in a while. Guess you’re filming this season’s episodes? Love your cookbook and love your recipes. You are such a lovely woman, you definitely have the “IT” factor, that’s for sure. Feliz Navidad and Prospero Ano Felicidad!
Thank you Dorothy! And thank you for watching my show, please say hi to your daughter. Yes, we are now in production for Season 4, so stay tuned! You can also reach out to your station and let them know you´d like the repeats if you want. And big YES it the fruit! Muy feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo!
Can you please tell us how to make rompope? I saw the article about it in the Washington Post. You were quoted but the recipe was someone else’s.
Love your show and everything about your life and approach to food.
Of course. I have a great family recipe, I will edit and try to upload it soon on my blog.
What a sweet story! For some reason we didn’t have ponche when I was growing up! What’s ups with that?! I can’t wait to make a huge pot! Thanks to your mom and you for sharing! Feliz Navidad desde Florida.
Los mercados Mexicanos de California estan llenos de nuestras frutas frecas de la temporada para este rico ponche. Buenisima receta para los que no conocen.
Me encanta el ponche como lo hace mi mamá. Muy parecido al de tu mamá pero con la adicion de tamarindo y jamaica y sin pasas. Me imagino que hay muchas variaciones de esta receta. Que lindo! Gracias por compartir la de tu familia, Pati!
Gracias por compartir la tuya, Alex, que rico con tamarindo y jamaica!