Warm Christmas Punch

Makes 21/2 quarts; serves about 10

  • 1 1/2 quarts plus 3 cups water
  • About 9 ounces (13/4 cups roughly chopped) piloncillo (Mexican unrefined cone sugar), or 11/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups (about 2 ounces) dried Jamaica flowers (dried hibiscus flowers)
  • 1/3 cup (about 11/2 ounces) raisins
  • 1/3 cup (about 11/2 ounces) chopped prunes
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 pieces fresh sugarcane, each 2 inches long, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slivers
  • 11/2 cups jarred guavas or tejocotes (or some of each), drained
  • 1 cup rum (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the 11/2 quarts water to a boil. Add the piloncillo and stir until dissolved. Add the Jamaica flowers and let the water return to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and return it to the saucepan.

Add the remaining 3 cups water, the raisins, prunes, apple, and sugarcane to the pan and set over medium-low heat. If using guavas, cut each one in half, scrape out the seeds, cut the flesh into 1/2-inch strips, and add to the pot; if using tejocotes, add them whole. Bring the ponche to a simmer and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

Just before serving, add the rum, if using, then ladle the ponche into mugs, adding a mixture of fruit and sugarcane for each guest. A spoon is not an inappropriate addition to each mug.

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