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

Agua de jamaica is a staple agua fresca flavor in our home.

Jamaica (pronounced “HAH-MY-CAH” in English) is a simple but unique drink, and has only two ingredients other than water. 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), agua de piña (pineapple), limón (lime), tamarindo (tamarind), naranja (orange), agua de 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.), and so on, and many people make them at home from scratch because it’s so easy. Every time we visit family in Mexico, nearly every meal made at home is accompanied by some kind of agua fresca.

Flor de jamaica (dried hibiscus flowers) used in agua fresca de jamaica #recipe on theothersideofthetortilla.com

flor de jamaica

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. You might also want to avoid drinking too much jamaica before bedtime.) 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 agua de 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; I prefer a brand called Zulka, which is Mexican, non-GMO, vegan-friendly and can be substituted 1:1 with processed white sugar. You can generally find this brand in all Mexican markets, many Latin American specialty grocers and even some mainstream retailers such as Target and Walmart.

AGUA FRESCA: AGUA DE JAMAICA

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: About 6 cups of concentrated juice (needs to be diluted)

AGUA FRESCA: AGUA DE JAMAICA

Agua de jamaica is a classic Mexican agua fresca recipe made with dried hibiscus flowers.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Remove from heat, stir, and allow to steep and cool to room temperature for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  3. 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.
  4. Refrigerate. When serving, cut with 50 percent water to dilute.

Notes

Total time includes 2 hours of cooling time for the concentrated juice to come to room temperature before serving or bottling and refrigerating.

*This recipe is vegan-friendly when using Zulka morena sugar.

http://theothersideofthetortilla.com/2009/09/agua-de-jamaica/

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