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This traditional hot fruit punch is served at Christmas and on New Year’s Eve throughout Guatemala, Mexico and the rest of Latin America. Also known as Ponche Navideño, it’s perfect for serving a crowd and features a bounty of fresh fruit and spices that’s both warming and festive.
For a celebratory ponche de frutas with alcohol, add a splash of dark or white rum.
A hot fruit punch or ponche de frutas is a must-have during the holidays in Guatemala. Not only does a steaming mug of fruit punch warm you up (and yes it does get chilly in the highlands of Guatemala and Mexico), but the spices and fresh fruit make it a deliciously fragrant drink to serve.
The Secret Ingredient to Guatemalan Fruit Punch
In Guatemala, people are masters of upcycling food. Nothing goes to waste. What exactly is upcycling? According to the Upcycled Food Association, it’s the practice of using ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption.
For example, it’s not uncommon to see onion peels used in sauces or a pot of blood boiling on the stove for moronga salsa. They take the same enthusiastic approach to avoiding food waste when it comes to fruit.
So, I wasn’t too surprised when my sister-in-law Lorena stopped me in the middle of making ponche de frutas to stop me from throwing away the pineapple skin.
“You’ve got to boil those cáscaras,” she said, taking the pineapple husk and the plantain skin and putting them into a separate pot to boil.
“They add flavour and vitaminas.”
As it turns out she’s right! Pineapple skin is packed with bromelain, a powerful enzyme with anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
Note: Do not eat the sap, thorns or pointed leaves of a pineapple.
So the secret to making an authentic Guatemalan hot fruit punch is using the skins of the fruit in the punch. Of course, it’s best to use organic fruit if you do.
Using every edible part of the fruit does make a big difference to the taste of the ponche and it is satisfying not let any bit of fruit go to waste.
So, while I haven’t yet gotten on board with the carnivore side of nose-to-tail dining in Guatemala, I say bring on the fruit compost when it comes to fruit punch. Be sure to give it a try when making this recipe!
Ingredients to Use for Ponche de Frutas
So, apart from pineapple rinds, what other ingredients go into making ponche de frutas? Basically whatever fruit is seasonal.
Typically, it will be an assortment of apples (fresh and dried), plums, prunes, pears, raisins, plantain, guava, tejocote (tart apples) and sometimes coconut plus spices. In Mexico, Ponche Navideño usually includes flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers) which adds a tartness and bright red colour.
If you’d like to add flor de jamaica to your punch, boil the flowers at the same time as the pineapple rind.
How to Make Ponche de Frutas Navideños
Wash the pineapple and plantain throughly. Then add to a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer with the cinnamon stick and cloves in a large pot for at least 30 minutes.
Once it’s simmered for 30 minutes, strain it and reserve the liquid and cinnamon stick. You can now discard the skins and cloves.
Add six cups of water and sugar to taste to the pineapple/plantain water. I use much less sugar than is traditionally used in Guatemala so I suggest you begin with half the amount called for in the recipe and then add more according to taste.
After cleaning and preparing the remainder of the fruit, chop it into small pieces and add it to the liquid in the pot.
Simmer for 30 minutes until the fruit is tender but not mushy. Grate fresh nutmeg when ready to serve.
Keep your ponche de frutas warm on the stove or in a slow cooker. That way it’s ready to serve to friends and family who stop by.
Add white or dark rum to taste
;¡Feliz año! Happy New Year!
Tips for Making Guatemalan and Mexican Holiday Fruit Punch Ponche Navideño
- Don’t throw away pineapple skin! It’s packed with bromelain, a powerful enzyme with anti-inflammatory and healing properties
- Store ponche de frutas in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Don’t consume the exterior leaves or thorns of a pineapple plant as they contain sap which can be irritating to the skin and toxic in large quantities.
- If you can’t find plantain, you can substitute a banana that’s not overripe.
- Using neglected bits of fruit is also the key to success in other Guatemalan dishes such as Platanos en Mole, where the husk of the plantain serves as a thickening agent.
- If you can find it, use piloncillo, an unrefined pure cane sugar, rather than white or brown sugar.
Other Latin-Inspired Christmas Recipes You Might Like
- Ensalada de Nochebuena – Christmas Eve Salad
- 25 Globally-Inspired Holiday Appetizers
- Spanish Breakfast Casserole
- Bacalao a la Vizcaina – Spanish Salt Cod Stew
Ponche de Frutas - Hot Fruit Punch
- cutting board
- large pot
- 1 pineapple
- 1 plantain ripe
- 1 apple fresh
- 2 plums
- 1 pear
- 1/4 cup apples dried
- 2 Tablespoons raisins
- 8 cups water divided
- 1/4 cup sugar I use less. Use Piloncillo ( Mexican brown sugar) if you can find it
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves whole
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice whole
- 1 nutmeg freshly grated
- Finely chop the pineapple and plantain into small pieces, reserving the husks. Set fruit aside.
- Bring 2 cups of water, the pineapple husk (not the leaves), the plantain skin and the spices to a quick boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered in a small pot for 30 minutes.
- Strain out the husks and spices, discarding all but the stick of cinnamon.
- Pour the boiled fruit juice into a large pot, adding the remaining six cups of water and sugar.
- Peel, core and finely dice the remaining fresh and dried fruit
- Add the diced pineapple, plantain, fresh fruit, raisins and cinnamon stick to the water in the pot.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust the sugar and spices as you like.
- Serve hot in mugs with bits of fruit in each.
- Plantain should be ripe but not mushy
- Use a mix of fresh and dried apples
- Prunes are a popular addition and will create a darker hued ponche
- Wash the husk of your pineapple thoroughly
- Do not eat the sap, thorns or leave of a pineapple
- You can substitute honey or agave syrup for the sugar to taste
Interested in more about Guatemalan and Mexican holiday cuisine? Sign up for the A Taste for Travel newsletter or check out my post on Tamales: the soul of Navidad.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
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