Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America. It’s a former colony of Spain, but indigenous culture and influence remains particularly strong, with most of the population having indigenous roots. Because of the country’s rich history there are many important archeological sites. However, there was a civil war from 1960 to 1996, of course taking a massive toll, and during the war the Guatemalan government committed genocide against the Mayan population. Guatemala has also suffered many natural disasters caused by hurricanes, floods, mudslides and volcanic activity. Over half of the population lives in poverty.
Guatemalan cuisine is based on the Mayan cuisine. Corn, black beans, rice and chili form the staples. Tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, radishes, beets, celery, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, eggs, cheeses, olives, nuts and seeds are also used in many dishes. Tamales, a type of stuffed pasty wrapped in corn or banana leaf, are very popular, and there are dozens of different varieties. Besides tamales and tortillas, soups and stews form the majority of dishes. Vegetables are often pickled or stuffed. Guacamole is served with many dishes. Some savory dishes are flavored with chocolate, fresh fruit and/or dried fruit. Desserts may include ingredients not commonly associated with sweet foods elsewhere, such as beans, chickpeas and sweetcorn, as well as bananas, plantains, cassava and chayote.
Ponche is a hot drink especially enjoyed at Christmastime, but would work well throughout the winter. My recipe is almost verbatim from this one, though I added the tamarind because I like tamarind and the blogger mentioned that commercial mixes often include tamarind. I didn’t have dried apple, so I used dried pear pieces. It was okay, but the taste of raisins was very dominant with little taste from the spices. I had to guess on the amount of raisins as the original recipe (which I halved) had one box, but didn’t say how big. Note that you will not get anywhere near 5 cups of drink out of this, as the fruit (which you’re supposed to also eat) will absorb a lot of it, and some will also evaporate.
0.3 lbs/150 g raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup dried prunes
1/4 cup dried apples, and cubed apple pieces
1 sticks cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
zest of 1/2 orange
sugar to taste
5 cups/1.2 l water
1/8 cup/0.3 dl rum (optional)
1/2 small papaya or dried papaya (optional)
1 tbsp tamarind
Chop the dried fruit, finely chop the pineapple. Put all fruit in a pot and cover with water, add spices, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add the sugar to taste (depends on ripeness of fruit). Fill cups with punch and fruit, serve with a spoon to eat fruit, add rum if desired.