Ponche Navideño

S Texas 6 Houston

True Texas
Written By True Texas

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For many people, the holidays are an especially stressful time. But for Melissa Guerra, whose eponymous website, melissaguerra.com, is an online kitchen marketplace and blog dedicated to the cuisine of South Texas, the season can also be a time to slow down and enjoy the company of the people we love.

“During the holidays, people get off their phones, unplug, and we just sit around,” Melissa says. While guests chat late into the night at her family’s cattle ranch 35 miles north of Edinburg, they’re usually sipping from a hot mug of ponche navideño, or Christmas punch.

“At the base of the punch is jamaica, which is the dried hibiscus flower,” explains Melissa, who also wrote the James Beard Award-nominated cookbook "Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cooking of South Texas."

“Then, it has all these different fruits and dried ingredients that are a great illustration of ranch and South Texas culture.” Although Melissa, an eighth-generation border Texan, didn’t start drinking ponche navideño herself until she was married, the tradition dates back hundreds of years.

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“Since we don’t have a ton of rain here, even our treats are dried. These would have been special ingredients that you could have purchased at the local mercado, and they would have lasted for a while.” —Melissa Guerra

The holidays at Melissa’s ranch are filled with family and friends. They typically enjoy a large midday meal and then a light supper of a few tamales and a hot cup of ponche. “The biggest tradition for us, I guess, is just people."

Cover photo credit elcielo_mexican via Instagram.

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