Jujube Punch, Mexican Style

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. 


Pinole for Carmen / Pinole para Carmen

Yesterday I read a post in Saborearte entusiasma, Carmen's blog, in which she was asking for information about pinole. This brought to me memories of my childhood.

As a child, I liked to eat dirt; clean dirt, of course! This is what I used to say when they were scolding me for eating gross things. I don't know if this is very common in children but, to me, dirt tasted good and I confess, if I didn't know better, I would still be eating it. Anyway, as we already know dirt is not one of the things recommended in the food pyramid, so my mother did what she could to stop my habit. One of the things that I was given to eat to replace my cravings for dirt was  powdered magnesia and another was pinole. Both have a resemblance to the flavor and the texture of dirt, but of course, they were better for me. I loved pinole!

Pinole is what results if you toast some mature corn kernels and grind them into a dry powder. You can buy it in Mexican stores but it is very easy to make at home. When I was a little girl my mom used to prepare pinole very often. I used to nibble on it  in its powdered form or mixed with very cold milk over ice.  Another way we used to have it was as an agua fresca (fresh, flavored water), mixed with iced water. Mmm, pinole smells delicious and tastes delicious!

Carmen also asked if anyone had prepared it before, or if anyone had eaten it with salt. I had prepared it but I never had it with salt. Reading Carmen's blog, I started to crave pinole so I decided to prepare some for myself.
Carmen, this post is dedicated to you and here is a simple and fast pinole recipe.


1/2 cup of corn kernels
2 sticks of  cinnamon or 2 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons of maple sugar

Toast the corn in a griddle until it starts popping but being careful not to burn it. Once the corn is toasted, add to the blender together with the cinnamon and sugar and process until all is well pulverized. Done! And, "El que tenga más saliva que coma más pinole" (the one with the most saliva would be able to eat more pinole (a Mexican say)).


So Long 2009, Hello 2010!

Today is the second day of the year, 2010, and I'm finally saying goodbye to 2009. Last year was a good year for me. I want to share some of my adventures of the year enjoying good food and great company of friends and family.

In January I had a nice time in La Cantina de los Remedios, a Mexican food restaurant in Tijuana, enjoying the company of my dear friends, Martha and Imelda, who have been my best friends since middle school. To preserve lifetime friendships in these times of bustle and hurries is a big challenge for many. I thank God that in spite of the difficulties I have these two beloved friends and hope to keep their friendship forever. I also thank God for Kim, my husband's niece, who gave me the recipes for Yogurt and Granola which I learned to make this month!

I initiated my own blog in February with the intention of sharing recipes and the memories of my childhood that these recipes bring to me. I hope to be able to instill some of the family traditions in my nephews, nieces and in the smallest members of the family who were not born and raised in Mexico. Also, my sisters invited me to celebrate my birthday, treating me to a very delightful Italian dinner. I had a great time sharing a meal with most of my sisters. Also, in February I learned to make a Mexican cookie called Coricos!

I had a lot of fun in March giving away the prizes for a series of contests that I had initiated early in the year. March held the end of the first contest in which I made Nancy, my niece, very happy since she was the winner of a very nice and useful mixer. The contests were very fun for me. In this month I learned to enjoy fresh ranch eggs that my brother-in-law Juan gave me.

April was the month in which I realized I enjoyed gardening more than ever. I started harvesting the first zucchinis in my back yard, followed by tomatoes, tomatillos, beets, fennel, carrots and more. In April we celebrated my husband Rich's birthday in Pío Pico, a campground, with sopes prepared by my sister, Boni and I. And the new recipe I learned this month was for Whole Wheat Crackers!!

I very much enjoyed the farewell party we had for my nephew, Hector, who moved to New York back in May. It was very entertaining and special to share with my nephews and nieces, to toast with tequila, and to see everyone having so much fun. In May I learned to prepare several new recipes - Prieta's Salt to give away for Mother's Day, Ginger Scones to accompany my vanilla ice cream, and I discovered avocado oil, which is delicious!

I had a lot of rewards in the month of June - a lot of vegetables, fruits and flowers in my garden and there is nothing more beautiful than to spend complete days enjoying and harvesting the fruits of my labor in the garden and to eat to my heart's content! The recipe of this month... Blueberry-Sour Cream Coffee Cake, mmm, delightful!

The most awaited event of the year happened in July - The Ojeda Family Reunion, 2009! It goes without saying, it was a great reunion! My favorite recipes of this month were the many dishes we all prepared together at the reunion - carne asada, nopalitos, chicharrones en chile verde, chilaquiles... mmm, so much! Everyone could feel the unity and the amazing love. Excellent!

August was the month we waited for with anticipation. Rich and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary! We celebrated it with a spectacular trip to Michigan in which Rich officiated a family wedding, we enjoyed seeing family members we don't get to see too often and we took a road trip to the northern part of the state; very beautiful! The new recipe that I learned was Three Berry Cake, a cake with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, a new family tradition.

In México, September is called Mes de la Patria or month of the homeland. In this month my intentions were to cook only Mexican meals with honors to my homeland. I cannot remember the event but at my mom's house one day we prepared chiles rellenos and in my niece, Adriana's house, we ate tostadas de carne (beef) y cueritos (pickled pork-rind). My sister, Boni, cooked posole para dar el grito (to proclaim independence) on the 15th and on one day of September I prepared enchiladas with a sauce of poblano peppers and sweet corn, with the best Mexican flavors! Mmm, I wish every month was the month of the homeland. Ah, but my best preparation of the month was making corn masa! From grinding the corn up to cooking the tortillas and preparing 6 tamalitos! Yes, only 6 tamalitos because I was doing a test before spoiling the whole batch but they turned out very good.

My mom's birth month is October. We serenaded her on her birthday very early in the morning - at 5:30 a.m.! Also, we joined Daniel, my nephew, on his birthday eating super delicious tacos and drinking tequila! At work, I enjoyed an international meal from 10 different countries prepared by my team members and me. The new recipe that I learned in October was Eggplants Stuffed with Meat, Almonds and Raisins, a recipe of the Middle East that a lady from Lebanon gave me.

Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead in November. This was a somewhat bittersweet celebration. I amused myself preparing my altar de muertos  but with sadness I mounted pictures of my late friend, Faten and my nephew, Rafa, who died not too long ago. I would have liked to have celebrated the Day of the Dead with their presence in life but I settled with the presence of their souls. On the other hand, it was very pleasant to share my nephew, Esteban's art, and to discover that my niece, Raquel, also makes art and paints very nicely. The recipe of this month was not pan de muerto, perhaps for next year, but I learned to prepare Croquetas de Carne Molida con Papas (ground meat croquettes with potatoes), a recipe that Raquel, my cousin, gave me.

December, of course, was one very busy month. Everything began with an invitation that we extended to Rich's family to spend Christmas in San Diego. We began the arrangements and we spent the whole month working and making everything perfect; we wanted to create a memorable celebration. I prepared masa for tamales and tortillas weeks ahead and froze it. I cooked a big pot of beans a few days before Christmas and froze them. I did a delicious chicken soup in industrial quantities and froze it. And I don't know how many more things I prepared ahead of time so I didn't have to be working when my company got here but, guess what? Everything I prepared ahead of time was not enough! Everything was finished the first or second day of the visit and I had to cook like crazy throughout the visit! Fortunately they all helped me - in the kitchen, to adorn the Christmas tree and to ensure that our celebration was a great success. Thanks to Boni and Jorge, her husband for letting us use their motorhome and to Lucy, my sister, who lent us her apartment and to my neighbor, Mimi, who let us use her house. We were able to accommodate 12 adults comfortably in these 3 places and in our small house. And believe it or not, the recipe of this month was tamales! Yes, tamales de rajas con queso (strips of peppers and cheese), beans with cheese, and sweet tamalitos with nuts, cinnamon, maple sugar and dried cherries. We also prepared a taco bar with chicken in adobo and beef cooked in red wine, handmade tortillas, quesadillas and a lot of beans and different kinds of salsas, ah! And we did not lack el chile de Juan... Undoubtedly a memorable Christmas celebration and a memorable year.

So long 2009, hello 2010!