Oh, eggnog — you devilish seasonal treat, you. We love you in our morning lattes and we love you spiked with bourbon before going to bed. You make the most delicious French toast ever, and even our favorite cake is sending you love notes. Is there anything you can't do? Truly?
This holiday season, I say let's skip the store-bought cartons and additive-laden jugs, and have our eggnog the old-fashioned way: with real eggs. This stuff is incredible and it couldn't be easier to make. As long as you have eggs, sugar, milk, and cream in your fridge, you can have eggnog any time the craving hits. Here's a step-by-step recipe to guide you to eggnog bliss.
Why You Should Try Homemade Eggnog
Besides being a revelation in deliciousness, homemade eggnog is made with just five ingredients — four if you leave out the booze. Compare this to the laundry list of additives in most commercial brands of eggnog. Most of those additives are there to artificially thicken the eggnog and give it a longer shelf-life — but if you make your eggnog at home, you don't need to worry about any of this.
Homemade eggnog is thickened first with egg yolks and then given even more texture by folding in whipped egg whites. Those egg whites transform what can be a fairly heavy, overly rich drink into something airier and frothier — though no less decadent. If you want to make it thicker or creamier, play with the proportion of whole milk and heavy cream, adding more cream for some extra body and richness.
As for shelf-life, if your household is anything like mine, leftover eggnog is rarely an issue. Depending on the amount of liquor you add, eggnog will also keep quite well for several days.
Raw Eggs and Eggnog
It's called eggnog because, classically, it contains eggs. And, classically, those eggs are raw. Classically, eggnog is also aged with liquor for several weeks (or months!), which sounds insane until you realize that the booze acts as both preservative and sterilizer. Very few bacteria, including salmonella, can survive in the presence of alcohol, as has been proven in lab experiments at Rockefeller University.
Think of it this way: Aged eggnog is another way of preserving seasonal bounty. Eggs and milk gathered at the height of their season — summertime — are preserved with alcohol until a time when they were historically scarce — wintertime. The fact that the resulting preserved beverage makes an addictively good boozy cocktail for holiday celebrations is a win for frugal homesteaders everywhere.
But even if you're not aging your eggnog like a Victorian, the same Rockefeller lab determined that the risk of food-borne illness is still quite small. I recommend using the freshest organic eggs you can find. You can also use pasteurized yolks and whites, or cook the eggnog base on the stovetop (see instructions at the end of the recipe below), if you need to be careful of using raw eggs.
An Argument for Aging
Aging your eggnog for even a short time does wonders for its taste and texture. The distinct flavors of egg, cream, and liquor meld together even after just a day or two in the fridge, making a smoother, more balanced cup of nog. The proteins in the eggs also start to thicken, giving eggnog its signature spoon-coating thickness.
If you'd like to try aging your booze for longer than a few days, I recommend using a ratio of two parts dairy to one part liquor — half the amount of liquor as milk and cream in the recipe. If this is a little too boozy for your taste, you can thin it out with some extra cream when you serve.
To make eggnog, you'll need 6 large eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 to 1 1/2 cup bourbon, rum, cognac, or a mix, Freshly grated nutmeg, to serve
How To Make Homemade Eggnog
Makes 6 cups, recipe can be easily scaled up or down
What You Need
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 to 1 1/2 cup bourbon, rum, cognac, or a mix, optional
Freshly grated nutmeg, to serve
Stand mixer or hand mixer
Microplane or nutmeg grater
Separate the eggs: Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another (I recommend the 3-Bowl Method for this step). Cover the whites and refrigerate until needed (or freeze if aging the eggnog for longer than a day).
Whisk the yolks with the sugar: Combine the yolks and the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk by hand, or with a mixer, until the mixture is smooth and creamy, and it has lightened to a lemon-yellow color.
Whisk in the milk, cream, and liquor (if using): Pour the milk, cream, and liquor into the bowl with the egg mixture and whisk until combined.
Cover and refrigerate: Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The more liquor you add, the longer it will keep — non-alcoholic eggnog should be consumed within a day; eggnog with 1/2 to 1 cup of liquor will keep for several days; and eggnog with 1 1/2 cups of liquor will keep for several weeks and continue aging and thickening quite nicely. (If aging for longer than a few days, transfer the eggnog to a sealed glass container or a mason jar.)
Whisk the egg whites: Just before serving, whisk the reserved egg whites in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer at high speed until the whites form stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites into the eggnog: Transfer the beaten egg whites to the bowl with the eggnog and gently fold or stir the whites into the base — this gives the eggnog a frothy, extra-creamy texture. Some of the egg whites will also float to the top, like cappuccino foam.
Serve the eggnog: Transfer the eggnog to a pitcher or punch bowl. Serve in individual glasses with a grating of nutmeg over top.
Contains Raw Eggs: This recipe contains raw eggs. Use very fresh, organic eggs if at all possible. Consuming raw or undercooked eggs can increase your risk for certain food-borne illnesses, especially if you have a medical condition.
Cooked Eggnog: If you'd prefer to cook your eggnog, follow these instructions. Warm the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat until just starting to bubble around the edges. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks together in a separate bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the eggs, then return the mixture to medium heat and continue to cook, stirring gently, until thickened to your eggnog-y liking. Serve immediately or chill for up to 3 days before serving. For extra thickness, whip 1 cup of whipping cream and fold into the eggnog before serving.
Even Richer Eggnog: Feel free to play with the proportions of whole milk to cream, keeping 3 cups total dairy. Heavy cream will make your eggnog thicker and creamier. Boozy eggnog will also continue to thicken in the fridge as it ages.
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(Image credits: Emma Christensen)