Christmas con piquete!

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By Jesus Adrian Ledezma

Tejocotes are the fruit of the hawthorn tree, and have a distinctive flavor somewhere between plums and apricots.

During these cold winter nights, a good ponche will make your celebrations warmer

“And so happy Christmas, for black and for white, for yellow and red ones, let’s stop all the fight.” – John Lennon

Well, it’s finally that time of the year when we get to reflect on the achievements of the present and goals for the future. During this season people get stressed buying gifts and making their way through the busy airports, but in reality, it should be a time of calm and serenity.

No matter who we are, or where we are, December means the end of something. With celebrations at home, school or the office, this month brings special moments to each of us. We enjoy getting together with those we love and miss those who are not with us anymore.

It is the time to rejoice and tell everyone around us that never is too late to start all over again. Our culture knows the importance of that message and that is why these fiestas de fin de año are the main celebrations in our calendar. Posadas, tamales y nacimientos attract people to our home as the season places smiles and joy on our faces.

In Arizona, this is very true. We are so used to the hot temperatures of our summer, that as soon as our thermometer goes below 70 degrees we think we are living in the North Pole and need people around us to feel the warmth again. Then, we go to our friend’s house and enjoy the camaraderie of the season, and a good ponche… con piquete!

Ponche is a traditional Mexican beverage prepared during the Christmas holiday. At first, it looks like hot fruit salad on a pot, but once you taste it, you know why Mexicans love this time of the year.

Put water to boil at lower heat in a large pot. Add apples, pears, oranges, guava, grapes and tejocotes cut into medium size chunks without deseeding or pealing. Also add tangerines and sugar cane, but these should be pealed. If you want you can add prunes and raisins, too. After a few minutes, add cinnamon and sugar. Let it cook an hour or so. Don’t forget to stir until the heavier fruit sinks to the bottom. When the fruit is soft and the liquid has a brownish color and a sweet flavor, your ponche is ready. Some people like to add rum or brandy to their ponche cup (called ‘con piquete’) for those cold winter nights.

Don’t forget to celebrate this season with ponche and tamales. But above all, don’t forget this is a time to give value to those things we cannot buy at the store.

My best wishes for 2009, and as el Maestro Lennon once said, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”

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