Brrr! Tis the season for warm drinks!
Having grown up in Mexico, I have heartwarming memories of the traditional fruit ponche (or calientito, as it is known in northern Mexico & the border) that made its way from my grandmother’s huge pots perched on her outdoor firewood stove into plump clay mugs that warmed our hands during our family’s December festivities.
There is no one recipe for ponche; recipes seem as varied as family mole recipes. At its foundation, ponche generally contains sugar cane, guava, and tejocote along with cinnamon and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar). Then moms and grandmas do their thing – adding a variety of other spices and ingredients such as apples, tamarind, prunes and even hibiscus flowers – to create their own signature recipe.
Being a yoga practitioner and a fan of Ayurveda, I also love me a hot cup of apple cider with warming Ayurvedic spices. For anyone who doesn’t know, Ayurveda is the life science of ancient India, which integrates food and lifestyle recommendations to bring balance to our bodies and minds.
So it is that I decided to merge these two ancestries into one delicious, bicultural drink. I use organic, unfiltered apple juice as a foundation, eliminating the need for added sugars; warming Ayurvedic spices including ginger and clove that help my body retain the heat for some time after I’ve finished my cup; and guava that provides the nostalgic callback to my grandmother’s ponche recipe, plus it packs more vitamin C than an orange, which as we all know is helpful during the winter season.
Before I get to the recipe, I’ll share this: I start with as many organic ingredients as possible. My three rules of thumb when choosing organic are as follows: 1) produce that gets sprayed on directly and we then consume as is (meaning, we don’t peel it – such as strawberries, apples, and pears), 2) all roots (such as potatoes, beets, carrots, and turnips) which absorb pesticide chemicals from the soil, and 3) herbs and spices that I will be steeping in hot water. When making this drink, I make sure to buy an organic orange, since I will be boiling with peel and all. That being said, you can feel free to choose from what is acceptable and available to you. If you choose conventional produce, be sure to wash it very well – you may even want to peel it prior to adding it into the pot.
Because this recipe was born on the border, I gave it a fronterizo name:
Calientito with Ayurvedic Warming Spices
- 4 cups unfiltered apple juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 apples
- 1 orange
- ½ lemon
- 3 fresh guavas
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into two or three medallions
- 2 cloves
Place apple juice, water and spices in a large pot. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, wash the apples and cut them into wedges. Keeping the peel, cut the orange and lemon into rounds, about 2 cm wide. Cut the tips off the guavas, and cut into four wedges. You may keep the seeds or throw them into your compost. Add the fruit to the pot as soon as each item is chopped. Once the cider boils, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. Enjoy a hot (not scalding!) cup.
This recipe should serve at least 4, depending on the size of cups you use. If you have left overs, store them in the fridge; like a good soup, this calientito will become more flavorful the next day.