The tiny little tejocotes were so cute, I bought a handful just to look at them! When the guy at the checkout asked me if I knew what they were, I said “No,” and he happily filled me in. Tejocotes, he told me, are one of the main ingredients used in Ponche Navideño, a traditional Mexican hot fruit punch that is served during the winter Holidays. Known as hawthorn apples here, tejacotes are fragrant and loaded with pectin. My interest prompted him to walk me back to the aisles of produce, where I filled my cart with guava, tamarind, apple, sugar cane stalks, pinoncillo (unrefined Mexican brown sugar that comes in cone shapes) and other dried fruit. Even nicer? He gave me his family recipe for the punch. We are still in the 12 days of Christmas, so try making this lovely warming drink to round out the Holidays!
Note: If you can’t find fresh tejocotes, they are available canned in a syrup in Asian and Hispanic groceries. If you use the canned version, rinse the fruit before using, and rather than adding it at the beginning of the recipe, add it with the rest of the fruit after the hot water and cinnamon have simmered for a while.
Mexican Holiday Punch (Ponche Navideño)
- ½ gallon water
- ½ of an 8-ounce piloncillo cone (OR substitute ½ cup dark brown sugar plus 1 Tbsp molasses)
- 1 large Mexican cinnamon stick (canela)
- ½ pound tejocotes
- 1 pound guavas (about 8)
- 1 cup pitted prunes, chopped
- 2 small apples, cored and chopped
- 1 pear, cored and chopped
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 small piece of sugar cane, peeled
- 1 cup tamarind pods, peels discarded
- Splash of rum (optional) to taste
- Place the water in a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat. Add the piloncillo, cinnamon stick and tejocotes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour. Serve hot, with a splash of rum if desired.