Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eggnog

Eggnog in white punch cup on black acrylic

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. 


Eggnog in brown mug on blue background, overhead view

Recipe: Eggnog

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.

Ingredients 
  • 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
 Procedure
  1. Set eggs out to warm up (about 45 minutes; room temperature egg whites beat better).
  2. 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.
  3. Separate eggs (see Notes)
  4. In one mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until they are a frothy golden yellow.
  5. Add sugar and beat until pale yellow.
  6. Add cream and nutmeg (if using), and beat until just incorporated into the egg mixture.
  7. With mixer on low speed, slowly pour in rum or bourbon.
  8. 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.
  9. By hand, fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk and rum or bourbon mixture until just incorporated.  Don't over-mix.
  10. Pour mixture into an airtight pitcher or other convenient container and store in the refrigerator.
  11. Age at least 5 days before serving.  The Eggnog will be good for at least six weeks.
  12. Serve with a dusting of nutmeg on top.
Eggnog in white mug on black background, overhead view

Notes
  • 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.
Eggnog in brown mug on white background, overhead view

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?”

Oops.

You may also enjoy reading about:
The Manhattan Cocktail
The Corpse Reviver Cocktail
The Sazerac Cocktail
Pimm's Cup

15 comments:

  1. I had no idea you could keep eggnog! Now I feel wonderful about whipping up a batch. My birthday is very soon so I think that would be a good time-so to speak! Anyway, Congrats on your recent press. You are over the top!

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  2. Hi Abbe, thanks! And yes, most Eggnogs keep pretty well as long as they have a high enough alcohol content. Definitely keep it refrigerated, although I've seen recipes where it wasn't - I'm not sure I'd want to risk that, however. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. GReat information! Wow up to a year, that would be hard to swallow for me, just knowing the life of a carton of milk.

    I always make a couple batches of homemade Bailey's Irish Creme to give as gifts during the holidays but this might be a nice change. Thank you for sharing all this great information. Very informative.

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  4. Hi Vicki, thanks! I agree the year seems hard to swallow :-) but I've even seen discussion of several year old Eggnog. It'd be fun to taste sometime, but the stuff with just a few weeks age on it is so delicious, I can't imagine that the really, really aged stuff would be that much better. Thanks for visiting!

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  5. if your yolk does break you can scoop out the bits from the whites using the egg shell - the yolk spots are easy to spot (they're bright yellow!) and the egg shell is the one thing that can permeate the whites. try it next time i promise you won't be disappointed and it will save you eggs!

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  6. How long would this last without alcohol?

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  7. I must admit that I'm not the biggest eggnog fan, but that's probably because I've never had the real thing before. I'll have to give this recipe a shot! Thanks for all the great tips, they are really helpful. Great idea to take out an extra egg or two when getting them to room temperature. I also typically rinse my eggs as an extra precaution (especially in Israel where the eggs tend to show up even to the grocery store with feathers and other crud stuck to them).

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  8. I love eggnog! LOVE. You offered some VERY helpful tips. Bookmarking this to try soon! Thanks for sharing.

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  9. @Anonymous, thanks for the tip re the egg shell if the yolk breaks! I'll definitely give it a try. Good idea.

    @Memória, good question - and unfortunately I don't know. The alcohol is a preservative (as is the sugar) so it extends the life of the Eggnog considerably. Personally, even if I was using long-dated eggs and cream, I wouldn't keep this for more than a day or two. But I might be overcautious about that.

    @Katherine, good tip re washing the eggs. I'm using American supermarket eggs which are pretty clean - but even with those there can be some bacteria on the shell. Eggnog tends to be one of those drinks that people like or not - so if you're not sure, I'd definitely reduce this in half or even by a fourth - the whole batch makes a lot!

    @Simply Tia, thanks! I think you'll really enjoy this.

    To all: I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Thanks!

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  10. That will be my go-to eggnog recipe from now on. And I love that you're not messing around with the quantity of dark rum or Bourbon.. Maybe I'll put it in a siphon to make a frothy concoction, or even a pacojet for the creamiest of ice creams.

    Great shots!

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  11. Hi Zenchef, I think you'll like this Eggnog recipe. I'd love to see what you'd do with a siphon or pacojet! And thanks for liking the photography - one of these days I hope to be in your class! Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. Thank you for the recipe! I'm not very familiar with beating egg whites. When you say past the "glistening" stage, do you mean just past the soft peak stage, but before stiff peaks? Thank you!

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  13. Hi Tracy, usually just at the stiff peak stage. If you beat egg whites too long, they look rather dry - like cotton balls. Over beating actually causes egg whites to lose moisture - the "glisten" you see when beating them. So beat until just at stiff peak stage, or if you want to be safe, just before. Thanks for the comment!

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  14. Thanks for stopping by. Now I have 2 great holiday beverages to share with friends.

    Happy Holidays!

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  15. Hi Vicki, I really enjoyed your post on homemade Bailey's Irish Cream! Thanks for commenting.

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