Ponche de Tamarindo

The holidays are coming and the weather’s getting cooler, which means I’m already starting my countdown to Christmas and las posadas Navideñas in Mexico.

A few weekends ago, I attended the Kenmore blogger summit here in Chicago where I participated in a day of cooking challenges with some old and new food blogger friends. You can check out my team’s recipes at cookmore.com (but a heads up that they’re not Mexican recipes). My favorite team challenge was one where we had to create a beverage using a slow cooker. Naturally, I suggested we make a spinoff of my warm winter margarita recipe, but with a few modifications since tequila wasn’t an ingredient option.

Our creation was a spiced brandy apple cider that wowed the judges and won us the competition; my guess as to why the recipe was such a success is probably because it had more than a little piquete of brandy, wink wink. I’ve been tinkering with some new holiday recipes recently, and the challenge inspired me to adapt a ponche de tamarindo recipe with brandy that I’ve been working on for the slow cooker.

The punch has two tart elements: whole tamarind pods and flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers), which are mellowed by the sweetness of the guava and piloncillo. The cinnamon and brandy give a woody depth, and overall, it’s a satisfying drink to warm you up on a cold night. And of course, it’d be perfect to serve for your posadas…. 

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AGUA FRESCA: AGUA DE JAMAICA

Flor de Jamaica WEB

flor de jamaica

Aguas frescas—literally, “fresh water” fruit drinks—are very common all over Mexico. They come in many flavors: horchata (made with a rice-base), sandía (watermelon), piña (pineapple), limón (lime), tamarindo (tamarind), naranja (orange), mango and so on. There are a lot of places in Mexico where you can buy aguas frescas out on the street, in the market, as pre-made powder mixes (also sold in the U.S.), etc., and many people make them at home from scratch because it’s so easy. Everytime we visit family in Mexico, nearly every meal made at home is accompanied by some kind of agua fresca. One of our favorite flavors is called jamaica—pronounced HAH-MY-CAH in English.

Jamaica is made like tea, infusing the flavor and purple-red color of hibiscus calyces. Like tea, jamaica is also a natural diuretic so don’t go drinking the whole pitcher in one day. (Yes, I once did that. I don’t think I need to explain what happened.) The only real variation among recipes are the ratios used of sugar to water, and whether or not you dilute the juice (and if so, how much) when serving.

Some households serve their jamaica a bit more tart like cranberry juice; we like ours a little sweeter (but not syrupy-sweet) and I dilute it by adding half a glass of water to half a glass of juice. I use granulated cane sugar because regular processed white sugar is too sweet.

RECETA:

AGUA DE JAMAICA

  • 2 cups (about 2 ounces) dried flor de jamaica (hibiscus flower calyces)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 8 cups water
Jamaica WEB

agua fresca de jamaica

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a non-corrosive pot and add the flowers and the sugar. Stir to wet all the flowers and dissolve the sugar, and allow to boil for 3-5 minutes undisturbed.

Remove from heat, stir, and allow to steep and cool to room temperature for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Using a sieve over a pitcher, pour the liquid (with the flowers still in it) through the sieve to filter the flowers out. The flowers will have plumped up during rehydration. Press them against the sieve with your fingers or a spoon to extract any extra juice left inside.

Refrigerate. Yields about 6 cups of concentrated juice. When serving, cut with 50 percent water to dilute.

  • How do you make your jamaica?
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