During my first year of teaching, I was invited to a colleague's Christmas party. I remember being very excited, as I had never been invited to a "real' party at a "real" business associate's house. Dressing my best, I choose a "can't go wrong" black skirt and a red wool sweater. My Santa earring was set in place. I remember her house. She had a silver wreath on the door and arched candelabras with orange lights in each and every window. Clutching my hostess gift of painstakingly-made walnut fudge, I arrived at the recommended 10 minutes past the appointed time. After being welcomed inside, I looked around. The table boasted a medley of beautiful hors doeuvres. I began asking my nervous self, "Should I have a drink? How much should I eat? Can I hold a plate and a glass?" My hostess, Jill, broke my thoughts by saying, "Help yourself to the eggnog, it's my specialty."
Eggnog? I looked over at the glass punch bowl sitting high atop a crystal pedestal. I could see a soft yellow glow inside the "v" shaped vessel. The glow was covered with mounds of billowing white clouds, covered with a golden brown sprinkles. I walked over and picked up one of the glass cups that were sitting in the shadow. I dipped the ladle into the pool, slowly separating the fluffs, careful not to injure them in any way. I filled my cup.
Raising my mini goblet to my lips, I tasted the beautiful beverage - sweet, cream, rum, nutmeg. I tasted again. I fell in love.
Oh, I had eggnog before. I remember my dad making it for me when I was recovering from the mumps as a way to strengthen my recovery. I remember liking it, but it was nothing like this breathtaking beverage. There were no piles of whipped meringue, no mounds of sweetened whipped cream, no nutmeg sprinkles and there was no rum.
Oh busboy, today, I am a fan of eggnog: homemade with raw eggs, homemade with cooked eggs or just grocery-store labeled. I love it all.
It's not known for sure but it is generally thought that eggnog originated in England where it was popular among the aristocracy. The poor couldn't afford egg and dairy. The "nog" part of its name may stem from the word "noggin," an English term used to describe a small wooden mug. The English also had a similar drink called an "Egg flip" because the drink had to be tossed between two containers to mix the eggs. The American colonials called any drink "grog" if it had rum so it is possible "eggnog" came from a slurred version of egg and grog. Whatever, I love it.
Traditional eggnog typically consists of milk, sugar, raw eggs and spices, usually nutmeg. Cream, especially whipped cream, may be included to make a richer and thicker drink. Alcohol is added: in England it's sherry; here, it's rum or bourbon.
For many years, I made Jill's eggnog every holiday season and did my best to serve it as beautifully as she did. But as more and more people began to worry about weight and cholesterol, and more news came out about raw eggs and salmonella, I made it less and less. I now, pretty much, just serve a hot spiced cider to guests.
What a shame. Eggnog is so good. Maybe I should bring back the tradition. Too fattening? Maybe I can use lower fat milk and doesn't even Dr. Oz recommend an occasional egg or two? And salmonella? Well it "may" be in your egg yolk (it doesn't grow well in egg whites) but it is unlikely to have multiplied to dangerous levels if the eggs are fresh and are properly refrigerated below 40 degrees. If you are really concerned you can actually make eggnog using cooked eggs or you can just buy it pasteurized from the store or buy Soy Nog or as I was saying, live it up, and just make Jill's.
Jill's irresistible Eggnog
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar,
2 cups whole milk, low fat milk or half and half
1 cup heavy cream plus 2 T. sugar
cup rum, bourbon, whiskey, or sherry
1 Teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 egg whites* plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1.) Separate the eggs into whites and yolks, being careful not to get any yolk in the whites.
2.) Beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until it is completely dissolved.
3.) Add the milk, alcohol and nutmeg and stir to combine.
4.) In a separate bowl, whip the egg white to soft peaks. With the mixer still running, gradually add 2 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
5.) In a clean bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks, add sugar and beat until stiff peaks.
6.) Fold the egg whites into the egg mixture.
7.) Chill. Dollop the whipped cream on the top at serving time. Sprinkle with more nutmeg.
8.) To make cooked eggnog, heat the milk, temper the egg and sugar mixture with the hot milk and heat to 160 stirring constantly. Cool, then add the alcohol, beaten egg whites and whipped cream.