A couple months ago I saw a dried, red, wrinkled fruit at the farmer's market, something I had never seen before. The vendor told me they are called jujubes. He said they are good to eat as a snack and some people use them for baking cookies. He let me taste one. The taste was familiar but I wasn't sure what it was. It tasted sweet like an apple, the skin was leathery but the flesh was soft like a dried apricot. I bought some with the intention of baking cookies. When I got home I stored them in an airtight container for a later use. It wasn't until Christmas time when I took Kim to the market and we saw jujubes again, I remembered I had some at home. This time the vender told us that jujubes make a great tea. This is where the familiar flavor came from! Ponche de Frutas, a hot fruit punch prepared at Christmas and New Year's Eve in Mexican homes.
The fruit used in ponche is called tejocote. It is not the same as jujube but it has a very similar texture and flavor. They are almost the same size but they are a different color; jujubes are red and tejocotes are red-orange-yellowish. Also, jujubes have one single seed while tejocotes have three or more. I think jujubes can be used to prepare the same things we prepare with tejocotes. Tonight I made fruit punch using jujubes and next time I see them fresh at the market, I'm going to try to make a jujube preserve. For now, here is my improvised recipe for ponche de frutas:
Jujube Hot Punch
6 C water
15 dried jujubes (washed)
1 medium orange (with peel, washed and sliced)
6 dried apricots
3 dried plums
1 stick of cinnamon
Piloncillo or brown sugar to taste
Place all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a rapid boil, reduce to simmer and continue cooking for at least 30 minutes. Strain and serve hot. All the fruit can be eaten, if you like, but I only ate the jujubes. Also, if you wish, add a splash of tequila or brandy, we call this ponche con piquete (punch with a shot). With or without piquete, it will be good to keep you warm on a cold night.