When I grew up in Trinidad, each member of my family had a role to play at Christmas. My mom was in charge of making the salt bread and the ginger beer. My dad was (and still is) the official ham supervisor. My brother would make pancakes for our breakfast. My brother Dominic would usually be the one to bring and carry and make sure enough chairs were around the table for us and for the relatives who’d soon be on their way. I would be put on table setting duty. And my sister Petal would make her specialty drink. Ponche De Crème or Punch a Crème, one of Trinidad’s most beloved Christmas traditions. It’s our version of eggnog, but with more of a Ponche (see what I did there?). There’s even a song about it!
You know a drink is excellent if there’s a song about it, right?
Ponche de Crème is likely the first nip of alcohol most Trinidadian children have. I remember being monitored on my ponche a crème consumption as a little one – I always would try to sneak an extra glass, and they would serve me in my mom’s tiniest, most delicate liqueur glasses.
Now I’m a grown woman and I can drink whatever size glass I feel like. Lo. Behold.
This was my first time successfully making ponche de crème! My friends at Target generously provided me with these beautiful items from their phenomenal Threshold collection, so I could share all of this with you guys and make it #MyKindOfHoliday (click the hashtag to check out their fun holiday campaign)!
I love the weight and shape of these Threshold Metallic Rim Cocktail Glasses. They’re elegant and classic. The whole set is gorgeous – check out the carafe! I’m keeping my ponche de crème safe in this chiller with glass lid, and it’s all served on the Threshold mirrored holiday tray. Gorgeous, no?
For my first attempt at making ponche de crème, I found myself at an impasse. My sister has a traditional recipe that she’s very proud of (with good reason). However, my sister’s recipe uses raw eggs in it, and I felt uncomfortable with that prospect. I wanted to keep this a salmonella free situation. That quest led me to Trinidad’s most popular cookbook in print, the Naparima Girls High School Cookbook – the official title is The Multicultural Cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. Just about every Trini has a copy of this book. A few recipes can be found online via NaparimaCookbook.com – including their ponche de crème recipe, which calls for heating the eggs using a double boiler, whisking continually until it’s ready to be mixed with the other ingredients. That seemed like a safer option that would keep longer.
I wound up creating a kind of mish-mash of both recipes. I used this lovely double boiler provided by Target, and whisked 6 eggs like there was no tomorrow. My sister’s recipe doesn’t call for granulated sugar, but the Naparima Girls recipe did, so I used sugar. I only bought 2 cans of evaporated milk and that turned out to be the perfect amount, just about. Other than that, I used my sister’s recipe and I may have used a bit more rum.
Anyway, here’s my sister Petal’s recipe for Trinidad’s version of eggnog!
Petal’s Ponche De Crème
Serving 16 persons
5 cups Full Cream Evaporated Milk
2 cans Sweetened Condensed Milk (395 g can per can)
1 1/2 cups of white rum
peel of 1 lime
1 tsp Angostura Aromatic Bitters
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
Beat eggs with lime peel until light and fluffy
Pour into blender and add evaporated milk.
Sweeten to taste with condensed milk.
Add Bitters, nutmeg and rum according to taste.
Remove lime peel and serve over crushed ice.
For non-egg eaters, substitute eggs with 1/1/2 cups pureed steamed pumpkin.
Good ponche de crème is thick and sweet and strong. You can drink your ponche de crème straight, or on the rocks but that can make it a tad watery. My dad recommends it over crushed ice instead of using big ice cubes to water down the drink.
My first time recreating a Trinidadian holiday tradition was an overwhelming success! I’m definitely still quite homesick but at least now I’ve got something sweet to sip away the sadness with. I’ve been trying to create my own Trini Christmas here in Chicago, despite the fact that it’s 80 degrees there and literally –1 degree here. I plan to make my own Trinidad butter bread, buy a ham, order some pastelles on the internet, and enjoy parang music right here despite the cold and the snow and the distance. Who says a white Christmas can’t also have a tropical flavor?
Thank you Target and #TargetInnerCircle for this super fun (and yummy) #MyKindOfHoliday experience!
For other awesome holiday drink recipes along these lines, try the pumpkin suggestion above for an eggless version, or consider coquito, Puerto Rico’s coconut alternative to eggnog and ponche de crème!
How do you make it YOUR kind of holiday?