Seasonal Treat: Eggnog

Eggnog is one of the seasonal treats that you either love or hate. But even if it’s not your favorite, it is an interesting beverage with a long history.

Eggnog is made from combining eggs, milk, sugar, and cream and spicing with cinnamon or nutmeg. Traditionally, raw eggs are used in this uncooked drink, however there are pasteurized varieties commercially available, or if you are making your own, you can cook the mixture or try making a vegan variety.

Some people also enjoy adding liquor to the drink, and historically, eggnog was aged with liquor which acted as a preservative and sterilizer. The use of alcohol to preserve eggnog makes sense, since eggs and milk, both perishable and somewhat seasonal products, are less plentiful in winter.  Making eggnog was a way to preserve one’s fall harvest of eggs and milk and to kill any potential bacteria!

Eggnog is thought to have started as “posset” during England’s medieval period. Posset was a hot drink made of milk with ale or sherry and was often spiced. Back then, milk and eggs were expensive, so this drink was a sign of wealth and was used to toast health and prosperity. Eggnog came across the Atlantic with American colonists and became popular since milk and eggs were much easier to come by. Since sherry was hard to find in the Americas, colonists substituted whisky and rum. It is thought that the term “nog” comes from “noggin,” which was the wooden mug that was used to serve posset and other similar drinks.

Eggnog can also be found beyond Britain and the United States. In Mexico there is a similar drink called rompope which is flavored with vanilla, and in Puerto Rico, there is coquito which includes coconut milk.

We carry a variety of eggnogs, from classic varieties to non-dairy and vegan varieties.  One of our favorites is of course our local variety from Strafford Organic Creamery.  Delicious!

Strafford Organic Creamery Eggnog

Strafford Organic Creamery Eggnog (photo courtesy Strafford Organic Creamery's Facebook page)

Want to try making your own?

The recipe below is for non-alcoholic eggnog and is adapted from The Kitchn blog. If you want to add alcohol to the recipe, please see the note below on aging and preserving.

This recipe does use raw eggs. To minimize the risk, we recommend using organic, fresh eggs. Consuming raw or undercooked eggs can increase your risk for certain food-borne illnesses, especially if you have a medical condition. If you are concerned about using raw eggs, please see the note below on how to create eggnog that has been cooked.

Homemade Eggnog
Makes: 6 cups

6 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ - 1 ½ cup bourbon, rum, cognac, or a mix (optional, see notes below)
ground nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice for garnish

Separate the egg yolks and whites into separate bowls. Cover the whites and store in the fridge until ready to serve the eggnog. Freeze the egg whites if aging the eggnog more than a day (see notes below on aging eggnog).

To easily freeze egg whites, first freeze individual whites in ice cube trays (be sure to wash the ice cube tray well before using for ice cubes again) and then transfer to a sealed container for storage. Thaw in the fridge and then allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. Instead of using egg whites in your eggnog and to minimize risk, you can discard the egg whites (or use them in a baked/cooked recipe!) and use a little whipped cream or heavy cream at the end instead.

Add the egg yolks and sugar to a bowl and whisk by hand or with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and is a lemony yellow. Add the milk, cream, and liquor (if using) and whisk until combined.  Cover the bowl and store in the fridge for at least an hour (or longer if aging; see note below. If aging more than a few days, transfer the mixture to a sealed jar to age).

Before serving, whisk the egg whites (if using) with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the eggnog in a bowl for a creamy and frothy texture.

Serve in cups with nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice sprinkled on top.

A note on aging/preserving: Aging your eggnog will help improve the taste and texture of the drink. To help your eggnog last a few days in the fridge, add ½ - 1 cup liquor along with the milk and cream. 

If you want to age your eggnog for a couple weeks, you’ll need to add more liquor to help preserve it. The recommended ratio is 2 parts dairy to 1 part liquor, meaning for the recipe above, you’ll need to add 1 ½ cups of liquor along with the milk and cream. If that creates too strong of a liquor taste, try adding a little extra cream when serving the drink.

Eggnog that contains liquor will continue to thicken as it ages.

Cooked eggnog recipe: If you would prefer to not use raw eggs, you can use the recipe above with these modified directions.  Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat until just bubbling around the edges.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, and then whisk the warm milk and cream mixture into the eggs as you pour.  Return the egg, milk, and cream mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir gently until the mixture thickens to your desired consistency. You can serve right away, or store in the fridge for up to 3 days. For extra creaminess when serving, you can fold in 1 cup of whipping cream.

Or, if you would prefer a vegan variety, check out this homemade non-dairy, vegan eggnog recipe from Alli, one of our staff members!

Vegan Eggnog
Vegan Eggnog (or, as we like to call it, Veggnog)

Lastly, if you don’t like drinking eggnog, try baking with it! It can be used to flavor ice cream, cakes, muffins, and other baked goods.