Make This Winter Classic Now to Enjoy Over the Holidays
Eggnog (or Egg Nog) enjoys seasonal popularity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Then it drops off our radar screens for the rest of the year. Which is OK by me — certain foods are best savored seasonally. And nothing says “holiday season” like Eggnog.
But when was the last time you tasted the real thing? Yeah, you’ll find shelves of “Eggnog” in your grocer’s dairy case this time of the year (usually non-alcoholic; it’s up to you to add the booze). But the commercial stuff pales in comparison to what you can make at home.
Eggnog is a snap to make. My recipe takes only a few minutes. But the mixture should age a week or more for peak flavor. So now’s the time to whip up a batch if you want Eggnog for the holidays.
Whether aged or not, Eggnog is nothing more than beaten eggs with cream (or milk), sugar, spices, and liquor added. However, there are several methods you can use to combine the ingredients (more on this in Notes). The procedure I use here is, I believe, the easiest and most foolproof method.
This recipe is adapted from Elsie Masterton’s Blueberry Hill Menu Cookbook. It makes a bit over two quarts. And you can easily double the quantity if you have a gang coming over, or you want to give out some containers as gifts.
- 8 large eggs, separated (I suggest pasteurized eggs; see Notes)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 quart heavy (40%) cream
- 2 teaspoons grated nutmeg, plus additional for dusting on top of drink (optional; see Notes)
- 3 cups dark rum or bourbon
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Set eggs out to warm up (about 45 minutes; room temperature egg whites beat better).
- Set out two mixing bowls — one for egg yolks, the other for egg whites (using a stand mixer with two bowls works best). Thoroughly wash and dry the mixing bowl and beaters that you’ll use for beating the egg whites. These must be clean, without a hint of grease, before the egg white touches them — otherwise the whites won’t mound, or will do so incompletely.
- Separate eggs (see Notes)
- In one mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until they are a frothy golden yellow.
- Add sugar and beat until pale yellow.
- Add cream and nutmeg (if using), and beat until just incorporated into the egg mixture.
- With mixer on low speed, slowly pour in rum or bourbon.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar. Beat whites until they form peaks, but don’t overbeat — they shouldn’t go past the “glistening” stage.
- By hand, fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk and rum or bourbon mixture until just incorporated. Don't over-mix.
- Pour mixture into an airtight pitcher or other convenient container and store in the refrigerator.
- Age at least 5 days before serving. The Eggnog will be good for at least six weeks.
- Serve with a dusting of nutmeg on top.
- Historically, “Eggnog” was one word, but today it’s more commonly written as two. Same beverage, same great taste. So who cares how you choose to spell it?
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk?
- You can easily identify pasteurized eggs because they have a red “P” stamped on them.
- Speaking of salmonella, there is some evidence that the spirits in aged Eggnog will actually kill dangerous germs. Michael Dietsch, author of the blog, A Dash of Bitters, has a great post with a link to an NPR video on the topic. It shows a microbiology lab deliberately introducing salmonella bacteria into Eggnog — and finding that the bacteria disappear when the mixture is aged from one to three weeks. (The alcohol in the Eggnog appears to kill the salmonella.)
- When separating eggs, it’s important that not a speck of yolk be included with the egg white, otherwise you’ll have beating problems.
- Here’s the easiest and fastest way to separate egg whites from their yolks: First wash your hands thoroughly. Then crack an egg, open the shell into the palm of your hand, and let the egg white run through your slightly open fingers. I find that it’s fastest if I transfer the egg from one hand to the other once or twice during this process.
- I always separate eggs one at a time into a small bowl, and then transfer each egg white into a mixer bowl (and the yolk into another bowl). That way, if I accidentally get some egg yolk mixed in with its white, I ruin only one egg, not the whole batch.
- When I bring eggs to room temperature before separating, I always put out an extra egg or two just in case I have an accident with one of the eggs I’m separating. That way, I’ll have a spare.
- You can add more nutmeg (the original recipe has double the amount I specify) or leave it out entirely. The Eggnog will be good either way. It all depends on how much you like nutmeg.
- Freshly grated nutmeg tastes much better than the already-grated stuff you buy in a jar or can. The easiest way to grate nutmeg is to use a Microplane grater.
- Dark rum and bourbon both work extremely well in this Eggnog, so use whichever you prefer. For dark rum, I’m partial to Gosling’s Black Seal or Meyer’s. For bourbon, some good choices are Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, or Maker’s Mark. But if you favor another brand, feel free to use it.
- Although I think my procedure for making Eggnog is the easiest, it’s not the most common. Many recipes call for beating the egg yolks, then pouring in the spirits, then letting the mixture sit for an hour or so to “cook” the yolks before adding the sugar, cream, and egg whites. Others first combine the yolks and sugar, then the spirits (and may or may not let the mixture sit). David A. Embury has a brief (but good) discussion about mixing Eggnog in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. He also includes a half-dozen Eggnog recipes.
How Much Age Can Your Eggnog Take?
This Eggnog tastes good right after you make it. But it’s better after 5 days. And still better after 2 weeks. After that, the flavor still continues to improve, but less dramatically.
Eggnog remains drinkable for at least six weeks after you mix it. In fact, some recipes call for putting some serious age on Eggnog — as in a year or more.
“A year!” I marveled to Mrs. Kitchen Riffs when I heard about those recipes. “What great flavor that Eggnog must have! I should try it out.”
“So,” replied Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, “how long has a batch of Eggnog ever lasted around here before it was guzzled down?”
“Well . . . maybe a month. Sometimes. At least once or twice.”
“And you think you can wait a whole year before breaking into it?”
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