I’m going to come right out and say it… I never used to be a big fan of eggnog. Even as a kid, I found it to be cloyingly sweet. Just one sip and I was set till next year, when I would try it again in the hopes of understanding what I was missing.
Then, about a year ago, I purchased my first carton of eggnog in my adult life — I needed to give it one more chance — and ventured a glance at the ingredients list. Milk, cream, sugar, eggs… so far so good… high fructose corn syrup, natural and artificial flavors, yellow # 5, hydrogenated soybean oil, guar gum, carrageenan, potassium hydroxide…
Needless to say, reading the label did not whet my appetite. So instead, I started looking online for recipes, and made my first batch of from-scratch eggnog right then and there.
The difference was astounding. It was slightly thinner without the gums and carrageenan, but still plenty rich and decadent. It had an almost woodsy flavor from the fresh nutmeg, and a hint of warmth from the vanilla — flavors that were previously undetectable beneath all the sugar. This homemade version was sweet, but not tooth-achingly so, and I found myself sipping away on glass after glass.
I was a convert.
The most surprising thing, though, is how easy it was to make. Besides the time it takes to chill down in the fridge, making your own eggnog only takes a few minutes. And the best part is, you can adjust the flavors to taste — if you prefer your ‘nog less sweet, decrease the sugar. Spiked or not spiked? You choose. And if you want to explore some less-traditional flavor options, the possibilities are endless. A few drops of orange extract, a pinch of cardamom, or a dash of pumpkin pie spice would all do nicely to turn this holiday classic into a modern treat.
Traditionally, eggnog is made using raw eggs. You would think there’d be a huge spike in salmonella outbreaks around the holidays, but there isn’t, because traditional eggnog is also made with lots and lots of booze, and aged for a few weeks in the fridge. Given enough time with that much alcohol, salmonella doesn’t stand a chance.
For those of us who aren’t interested in drowning our eggnog in alcohol, or who want to have the option of a kid-friendly beverage, raw eggs might pose some issues. The most common way to avoid problems is to use pasteurized eggs, which minimize the risk of stray bacteria… but if that doesn’t put your mind at ease, I’ve included instructions for cooking the eggnog, just to be completely safe.
Now, it’s no secret that I love making things from scratch. (Can you tell?) And nothing makes me happier than sharing that food with the people I love, especially around the holidays. Sometimes I just have to stop and pinch myself, though, and remind myself how lucky I am to do what I do. Like, being able to make a shopping list the length of my arm, and having reliable access to fresh, healthy food. Whole milk, fresh cream, pasteurized eggs… it’s so easy to take these things for granted.
I know Thanksgiving has already passed, and we’re all moving on to our Christmas shopping, but this is when it really starts to hit me just how good I have it. When I start to complain about things like scraping the snow off my car, or sitting in traffic to buy groceries, or having to go to more than one store to find what I need… those are luxuries so many people don’t have. Not having to worry about where my next meal is coming from? Now that’s something to be thankful for.
Every year around this time, I try to put this feeling of gratitude to good use and give back in some small way. In the past, I’ve done things like volunteer at a food bank, or donate to hunger-fighting organizations… but this year I wanted to do something more.
This year, I’m teaming up with 11 other food bloggers and The American Dairy Association Mideast to put together a Big Holiday Potluck! How does this help, you ask? Well, for every LIKE, COMMENT, and SHARE each of our recipes get on the American Dairy Association’s Facebook page, the ADA will donate $1 to Feeding America.
One dollar might not seem like much, but it’s enough to provide nine meals for people in need! And all it takes is the click of a button.
Every day, more than 50,000 people in the US struggle with food insecurity… in the land of abundance and plenty, that number is pretty frightening. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that something as small as a dollar, or the click of a mouse, can actually make a difference… but it can. And the more clicks we get, the better!
This is where you come in! To help, just head on over to the ADA Mideast facebook page, here, and look for all of the Big Holiday Potluck recipes (including this eggnog). Every like, comment, and share between now and December 13th = one dollar donated to Feeding America.
Let’s see… there are twelve food bloggers participating in the potluck, and if you like, comment, and share each recipe once… that’s a total of 324 meals! Now multiply that by the number of people reading this, plus facebook, twitter, and pinterest… carry the one… okay, forget the math, that’s a lot of meals for people in need!
Once you’re done liking and sharing on facebook, why not kick back and enjoy a glass of homemade eggnog? Go ahead, you deserve it!
Makes about 6-7 servings — loosely adapted from Alton Brown
6 large egg yolks
1/2 – 3/4 cup granulated sugar, to taste
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
small pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 oz. bourbon, cognac, or brandy, to taste (optional)
1-2 oz. rum, to taste (optional)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 large egg whites + 1 TBSP sugar (optional)*
Whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg, for serving (optional)
1. In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until smooth and lightened in color. Add the sugar slowly, while mixing, and continue to beat until pale and fluffy. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pinch of salt. Heat until steaming, stirring occasionally. Do not let it boil!
3. Slowly temper the egg with the hot milk mixture. To do this, carefully pour the hot milk mixture over the egg yolks and sugar, while whisking continuously to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once all of the liquid has been incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan.
4. Cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to thicken slightly, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching. If you have a thermometer, cook until the temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Do not let it boil, or the mixture will curdle!
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and liquors (if using). If there are any lumps, pass the eggnog through a fine mesh strainer.
6. Chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or overnight, before serving. Fresh eggnog can be stored for up to a several days, or longer if it has the alcohol added. It should be kept in the fridge at all times. Stir well to mix in any of the nutmeg that may have settled to the bottom before serving, and top with fresh whipped cream and extra nutmeg. Enjoy!
*optional: in a very clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Add one TBSP of sugar, and continue to beat until they have reached stuff peaks. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled eggnog.
Note that consuming raw eggs increases the risk of salmonella — to reduce this risk, use pasteurized eggs, and wash the shells gently with soap and water before cracking them open.
1. I like my eggnog not too sweet, and find it just perfect with a slightly rounded1/2 cup of sugar. If you prefer yours a little sweeter, increase the sugar by 1/4 cup, or to taste.
2. If you want to mix up the flavor of your eggnog, try adding a few drops of orange extract, a dash of pumpkin pie spice, or a pinch of freshly ground cardamom… or use whatever flavors sound good to you.
3. Traditionally, eggnog is made using raw eggs. Note that consuming raw eggs increases the risk of salmonella — to avoid that risk, I’ve included instructions for cooking the eggnog. If you are using pasteurized eggs and would prefer to leave them raw, simply skip the stove. Add the cold milk directly to the egg yolks, and do not heat the mixture.
4. Homemade eggnog should be enjoyed within a few days of making it. If you’ve included the alcohol, it will last longer depending on the amount added. Eggnog should be stored in a jar or airtight container in the fridge at all times.
Special thanks to the ADA Mideast for teaming up with Feeding America, and sponsoring this Holiday Potluck to help support families in need!