I have never been an eggnog fan, at least not of the stuff I usually see at festive events – the eggnog that comes in a carton from the store. But I always thought I might like it a lot more if I tried making it from scratch, and this weekend my sisters and I decided to try it out – and I was right.
In the older sources I can find, Eggnog is characterized as ‘an American drink,’ though it’s thought to be related to the old English possets. It’s often considered a good drink for people who are ill. I’ve read several times in modern recipes, without any backup or source ,that ‘only wealthy people could afford to make it,’ but I don’t think that’s true – milk and eggs were readily available to the middle classes, and though rum (or Madeira) would be more expensive than ale, I don’t think it was out of reach as a special drink.
The old recipes also do not call for the milk to be heated, but that’s changed as the risk of salmonella is too high unless you’re doing an aged Eggnog (I may try that another time, but this recipe is ready to drink on the same day you make it). So while this drink is served cold, the milk is heated to ‘cook’ the eggs and kill bacteria (no, the alcohol alone is not strong enough to do the trick). If you’re really obsessed with period accuracy, you can choose to do it the old way via the period recipes below and get yourself an old-fashioned case of salmonella poisoning. Not very festive, but extremely authentic!
Our recipe follows; below, I’ve included some 19th century recipes.
We make ours with rum, which is fairly traditional, but you can leave it out and still have a pretty tasty drink; you can also add more rum if you like, but we find the amount called for to be pretty potent. We used Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, because it’s our favourite and also what we had on-hand.
We also used less sugar than is usually called for, because wow, that’s a lot of sugar. You can absolutely reduce it to taste.
It’s also a lot of egg yolks – when you’re separating them, you can set the whites aside and freeze them for other recipes (like a Chocolate Pavlova, for example), as they freeze really well.
- 4 cups milk
- 12 eggs (this recipe only uses the yolks)
- 1 cup rum (we used spiced rum)
- 1 cup table cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided into 1/2 tsp and 2 tsps
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 5 whole cloves
- Separate 12 egg yolks; save egg whites for use in other recipes.
- Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan on a low setting for 5 minutes.
- Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl; whisk until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes.
- Bring milk mixture to a boil.
- Slowly pour milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking to combine.
- Return mixture to saucepan, cooking on medium for 3 minutes and stirring constantly. Do not boil.
- Stir in rum, cream, and remaining vanilla. Chill.
- Strain to remove cloves and serve cold, with fresh nutmeg grated on top
Journal of Practical Medicine, Volume 5, 1895
“The best milk should be used. Skim milk is not food. Milk punch and egg nog want cream or very good milk. They want that which energy and skim milk does not give energy In making milk punch”
The Gentleman’s Table Guide: Being Practical Recipes for Wine Cups, American… , 1871
No 95 BALTIMORE EGG NOGG
Use a punch bowl. Beat up the yolks of 12 new laid eggs, 10 tablespoonsful of powdered loaf sugar, whisk well together to the consistency of cream; add nutmeg, grated very fine. half pint brandy, Irish whiskey, or rum, 2 glasses of Madeira or fine brown sherry; have ready the whites of the eggs, whisk up to a stiff froth, and beat them up with the above. When this is all done stir in 6 pints of rich new milk; add a gill of cream, grated nutmeg on the top. Place your bowl on the ice to cool, and add the whites of eggs just before serving. Ornament with strawberries or raspberries
Jennie June’s American Cookery Book, 1878
CHRISTMAS EGG NOG
Take the yolks of eight eggs and six table spoonsful of pulverized sugar and beat them to the consistency of cream; to this add half a nutmeg grated and beat well together, then mix one third of a pint of good Jamaica rum and a wine glass of brandy or Madeira wine; have ready the whites of the eggs beaten to a stiff froth and beat them into the above mixture. When this is done stir in three pints of good rich milk. No heat is used.
How to Mix Drinks, Or, The Bon-vivant’s Companion, 1862
Egg Nogg is a beverage of American origin but it has a popularity that is cosmopolitan. At the South it is almost indispensable at Christmas time and at the North it is a favorite at all seasons. In Scotland they call Egg Nogg ‘auld man’s milk.’
84 Baltimore Egg Nogg
For a party of fifteen Take the yellow of sixteen eggs and twelve table spoonfuls of pulverized loaf sugar and beat them to the consistence of cream. To this add two thirds of a nutmeg grated and beat well together then mix in half a pint of good brandy or Jamaica rum and two wine glasses of Madeira wine. Have ready the whites of the eggs beaten to a stiff froth and beat them into the above described mixture. When this is all done stir in six pints of good rich milk. There is no heat used. Egg Nogg made in this manner is digestible and will not cause headache. It makes an excellent drink for debilitated persons and a nourishing diet for consumptives.