I always get a little melancholic around the holidays. It is that time of the year that I miss my family the most. This year I got a great surprise visit from my sister, who lives in Spain. My husband noticed that I was feeling a little bit “blah”; overwhelmed with work and responsibilities, missing people, and not feeling the great spirit of the season. That’s when he decided to contact my sister, and they planned the surprise. I had no idea, they really pulled it off! I am so happy, and thankful for such a great and thoughtful surprise. Raising my kids in a different culture than the one I grew up with is not always easy. I adapt, embrace, and compromise a lot; but I still want them to know about Venezuelan traditions. That’s why the holidays are so important, we combine my traditions with the American-Midwest traditions, and make them our own. Having any members of my family here, just makes it so much more enjoyable.
Every Christmas I prepare all the traditional Venezuelan foods. Last year, I shared in this post how we make our Christmas meal, Hallacas. This year, I am sharing a recipe that takes me back to my childhood on the first sip: Eggnog or Ponche Crema Venezolano. Ponche Crema is the Venezuelan brand that made this drink popular back in the early 1900’s. The commercial brand is the only way we consumed this beverage growing up, and yes, even when we were kids, we were allowed to have a very small glass of Ponche Crema on Christmas eve. Because this is an alcoholic beverage, the adults drank it all night , while we were limited to that tiny bit of deliciousness, only that one time of the year, we looked forward to it every Christmas. Now that I make it myself, I make a virgin version for my kids, and they love it.
The homemade version has few variations, as no one claims to know the commercial recipe. I never dared to make it myself, until I was miles away from home missing that authentic flavor. A friend let me know how she’d prepare it at home and I started my quest to find the secrets. Really there aren’t any secrets, but the use of flan instead of dozens of eggs, helps make the drink creamy. Condensed milk brings the sweetness, and creaminess that a lot of Latin desserts have. Almond milk adds a nice nutty flavor. Finally, I use Venezuelan rum, because I can (my family brings me a bottle when they visit); however any light rum will do. If you want to give this homemade Eggnog or Ponche Crema a try, let’s get to it!
2 egg yolks
1 2.5 oz. packet Spanish flan*
1/2 gallon milk (I use 2%)
1 cup almond milk
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
1 1/2 cup light rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*Spanish Flan is a dessert custard, you can find the boxes at the grocery store in the baking or ethnic aisles. Depending on the brand, the boxes contain 1 or 2 packets, only use 1 packet for this recipe.
In a medium sauce pan, add the egg yolks, flan powder, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and about 2 cups of milk. Place the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remember to stir at all times to avoid the mixture to curdle. Let it cool slightly. In a blender, mix condensed milk, almond milk, and rum. Add the egg mixture, and blend again, until creamy. Transfer to a big bowl and whisk in the remainder milk. The consistency should be smooth, and creamy; if it has any lumps you can strain it using a fine mesh. Transfer to a serving jar or glass bottle with a lid, and refrigerate. Shake or stir before serving. Serve over ice in short glasses, sprinkle with nutmeg. Enjoy!
Cook’s Note: make this recipe without rum to serve the kids.