Photo: Taste of Home
Like many other nostalgic holiday recipes, the eggnog recipe hasn’t stayed true to its roots. It’s natural that our tastes evolve (when was the last time you had boar’s head at Christmas dinner?), but sometimes it’s not our tastes that change but the food itself. This is exactly what happened with eggnog.
In Christmases past, this rich and creamy beverage—with its frothy top dusted with freshly grated nutmeg and its body often fortified with a health dose of holiday cheer—was the pride of many families. Over the years, eggnog recipes were altered to meet changing palates and busier schedules. But what really did eggnog in was the rise of salmonella in raw eggs.
I’m not going to get into a debate about how safe raw eggs are today. Instead, I’m going to show you how to recreate this holiday classic so it’s just as delicious as the original, but with no food safety worries attached.
How to Make Traditional Eggnog
12 large eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 cups whole milk, divided
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Step 1: Make It Safe
In order to ensure that our mixture is safe to eat, we need to cook the eggs to at least 160°. Start by whisking together eggs, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan before adding half of the milk (4 cups). Place the mixture on the stove over low heat and cook until a thermometer reads 160°-170°. This should take about 30-35 minutes, and you should be stirring constantly at least the last half of the cooking time so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan. Also, do not let it come to boil or you’ll get fancy scrambled eggs. Once it hits 160°, immediately transfer it to a large bowl.
Step 2: Cool It Down
At this point we have a fairly thick custard sauce. To that we’ll stir in the vanilla, nutmeg (preferably freshly grated) and the remaining 4 cups of milk. Place the bowl in an ice-water bath, stirring until milk mixture is cool. If you cooked the egg mixture a little too long it may separate a little, but don’t worry: Just process it in a blender until it’s smooth. Refrigerate, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.
Step 3: Add the Final Touch
The final step of traditional eggnog is to fold in beaten raw egg whites to get an airy, almost fluffy texture. We’re going to achieve the same effect by beating the whipping cream to soft peaks and gently whisking it into the cooled mixture. To finish it off, freshly grate some additional nutmeg on top of each serving.
Step 4: Spike It
At this point, I know some of you are saying, “Where’s the rum?” (or brandy, whiskey or bourbon). After some exhaustive and thorough testing by our entire Test Kitchen staff, all on your behalf, of course, we determined all these spirits taste delicious with the eggnog, so feel free to grab the bottles. We recommend using 2 parts nog to 1 part spirits, but we won’t be upset if the ratio gets reversed at your house.