Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hedgerow Punch for Winter Health

Darkness and festiva are upon us! Music and gaiety, light and colors abound. Friends gather to sing, dance, share food and remember. For what is remembered lives! In this time of darkness, a sweet, earthy scent tickles my nose and I am enveloped in her arms once again. A scent anchored in dark, crumbly forest duff and humus rich soils of the river valleys where I live and which supports the revelry of the season.
Hedgerow Punch on a bed of cedar with Brandied Tart Cherries

Over the last 8 years or so, a distant memory living in hedges has slowly been taking root in my mind and body with delicious detail. This season of sharing, caring and reaching out in darkness has given rise to a new winter beverage here at RavenCroft Garden.

Hedgerow Punch, inspired by my friend, Blanca, who hails from Puebla, Mexico where they call a similar mixture Ponce. She offered me my first taste of ponce one New Year's Eve a while back. Ponce is a delicious, fruity warm beverage traditionally made and shared through the winter holiday season in Mexico. 

Anyone who has visited this blog over the last year knows Hawthorn has been one of the main characters showing up through every season. We've learned that perhaps over 1000 varieties of Crataegus are at home around the globe in the temperate northern latitudes and everywhere people enjoy her in their gardens and kitchens and in the wild edges.

These days I can't go anywhere that hawthorn doesn't jump out from a hedge or city park or trailside to once more impress upon me the richness of diversity, adaptability and down right willingness to share her bounty and beauty in any season.

Crataegus mexicana with a smaller local hawthorn

Well, this week that crafty crataegus leaped off the shelf of our local Tienda. Betty, the bilingual and gregarious clerk caught me reading the label on the tejacote jar. She asked, "You know tejacote?" "I know many of her friends, cousins, and sisters," I respond, "I'm just getting acquainted with this hawthorn!" Are you making ponce?" Betty inquired. "Yes", I acknowledged, "yes, I am crafting a recipe for ponce!" "Oh, then let me show you the fresh tejacotes in back, people are brewing ponce now, so we have fresh ones, much different than processed!"

And so, C. mexicana, has joined the merry caravan of Hawthorn traveling through this walk in beauty adventure…Here is a recipe for you to play with and enjoy! A little wild, a little store bought and a whole lot of fun to create and serve with your friends this holiday season.
A-boon-dance from hedges and edges

Hedgerow Punch

1 cup dried hawthorn berries
6-9  fruits of C. mexicana if you have a tienda nearby...
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried wild plums 
1/2 cup rosehips
1/2 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 cup burdock, astragalus, elecampane or asparagus root or any other nourishing root you have on hand
1/2 cup reishi or devil's club root bark or any other tonic roots or fungi you have on hand
2-3  4-6" sticks of cinnamon
4 quarts water

Bring fruits, roots and nuts to a soft boil, then turn down heat and simmer for several hours. This can be ass simple or extravagant as resources allow. I use the back of a wood stove, a crock pot would work well.

Once the punch is well married in flavor and the dried fruits are soft, add fresh apples and pears and a small orange or lemon sliced thin…continue to simmer until the fresh fruit is soft. 

Serve the brew in cups. For adults, a couple brandied tart cherries and their juice is a festive addition...

Eat the fruit in bowls alone or over yogurt or ice cream for a treat or on your cooked cereal for breakfast! I occasionally run the fruit through a hand crank sieve and enjoy the pulpy fruit drink expressed.

As the punch travels from house to house and different people taste the fruity punch a myriad of memories begin to surface…

"Oh, that tastes like the punch my grandma from Russia made when I was little, she called it compote." 

"I remember something like this that my grandmother made with rose hips and fruit" a voice from a friend whose family hails from Sweden concurs.

And yes, now a grandmother myself, these recipes are filtering through. With a few mischievous local flourishes they, will live on. Nourishing, tonifying and bringing cheer through the dark time, filled with laughter and story these Ponces really do heal!

Do you have a favorite winter punch using fruit and herbs to keep your family well through the winter months? Let me know if this recipe inspires you to carry it forward with your own flourishes! Be sure to bundle up and go outside and play! Be well, until next time...

Bright Blessings, my friends, may winter nourish the depths of our souls
in times such as these!

No comments: