Heirloom Recipe for Homemade, Old-Fashioned Eggnog
How an Heirloom Recipe Came to Our Family
This recipe came to my husband from a kindly old gentleman, Judge Robert E. Thornton, who unfortunately passed away in 2011. During my better half's work as a county prosecutor, he met Judge Thornton when the judge would often come work in our county as a visiting judge. At this point in his career, Judge Thornton would come hear cases in our county when extra help was needed, but he had retired from service in his home county. In other words, he was an older gentleman—in his late 70s, in fact.
Judge Thornton and my husband got along well and enjoyed working together, despite their age difference and the fact that some very gruesome murder cases were what brought them together. One evening during the Christmas season, probably about a decade or two ago, the subject of eggnog came up. Eggnog was not something anyone in my or my husband's families had ever made before, but Judge Thornton was kind enough to pass his own generations-old family recipe along to my husband. The Christmas season is such a busy time, and my husband was feeling like he really didn't have time to set aside to make homemade eggnog, of all things, yet he felt somewhat obligated to make it and report back, mainly out of his respect and admiration for the judge.
It turned out to be a terrific recipe, and my husband was very pleased to not only put a smile on the old judge's face, but also to be in possession of such a great heirloom recipe. The eggnog was a hit on Christmas Day, and family members began requesting it every year. My better half makes at least two triple batches each December, reserving some for family gatherings and giving the rest as Christmas gifts to friends and colleagues, who request it and look forward to it.
Making homemade eggnog has turned into a yearly holiday tradition in our home. We still have the original piece of paper on which the judge wrote out the recipe in his elaborate but shaky cursive handwriting, and we bring it out every December. I hope you and yours will enjoy the recipe as much as we have.
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup Mount Gay rum, or whisky or other liquor of your choice.
- 1 cup half-and-half
- Ground nutmeg, for garnish
- Separate the eggs using an egg separator, or simply use the shells. To use shells, gently transfer the yolk from shell to shell, allowing the egg white to drip off into a separate bowl. I've also seen eggs separated with an empty water bottle, but I've never tried this method myself. Check out the videos toward the bottom of this article for demonstrations of both methods. Set egg whites aside.
- Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add sugar, and stir to combine. You'll end up with a thick, grainy paste. Mix well for best results.
- Add rum or other liquor to yolk mixture; stir to dissolve sugar. Again, mixing well yields the best results. Continue stirring until all sugar grains have dissolved and the liquid feels smooth.
- Place egg whites in a metal, ceramic, or glass bowl that is completely clean of oil or grease, and use an electric mixer (with very clean beaters) to the beat the eggs just until they begin to get thick, frothy, and fluffy, but not so well that they hold peaks. If you use a bowl or beaters with traces of grease or fat, the grease will keep the egg whites from whipping up properly. Grease or oil particles often cling to plastic and do not completely wash off, which is why a glass, ceramic or metal bowl is preferred when beating egg whites.
- Gently fold the well-beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture, folding until well blended.
- Stir in half-and-half and blend well.
- Transfer to a serving pitcher or punch bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
- Sprinkle nutmeg atop each individual serving.
Are Raw Eggs Safe to Eat?
The FDA does not recommend eating raw eggs, citing the risk of salmonella contamination. Many are willing to take that risk, but if you're not, you can purchase pasteurized in-the-shell eggs. Two brands of pasteurized eggs are Davidson's Safest Choice eggs and Truly Pure Pasteurized eggs.
To tell the truth, we have never used pasteurized eggs in our eggnog, as we can't find them in our area. Instead, we take what some would consider to be something of a risk with Eggland's Best eggs. We like Eggland's Best because of their fresh taste and higher nutrition, but also feel fairly comfortable with them, as the company vaccinates all its hens against salmonella three times during the first months of the hens' lives. We grew up eating raw cookie dough and cake batter, jumping on unenclosed trampolines and riding our bikes without helmets, so perhaps we are just old-school risk-takers.
A 2002 study by U.S. Department of Agriculture found that approximately one in every 30,000 eggs in the U.S. is contaminated with salmonella. Often the contamination is on the shell rather than inside it, so carefully washing your eggs before cracking them can help reduce the risk. You can also reduce the risk by combining the eggs and half-and-half called for in the recipe, heating the mixture in a pan to 160°F, then cooling it quickly in the refrigerator. Health officials say this will kill any bacteria without cooking the eggs; however, I have never tried this so I cannot vouch for the results of the finished recipe when this method is used.
Helpful Recipe and Gift-Giving Notes
- One batch makes about 3/4 of a quart of eggnog. We usually triple the recipe, which yields about a half gallon. The making of a triple batch is shown in the photos. When making a triple batch, we use two large mixing bowls: one for the yolk mixture and one for whipping the egg whites.
- Chilling your ingredients, including the liquor, lessens the amount of chilling time the finished eggnog needs.
- Add more or less liquor to suit your taste.
- The rum with the funny name: we prefer to use Mount Gay rum, as it is very smooth and almost sweet, and goes very well with the creamy flavor of the eggnog. Mount Gay rum has been made in Barbados since 1703, and it is considered to be one of the world's best rums. We love it in eggnog and in plenty of other mixed drinks, as well.
- If you prefer nonalcoholic eggnog, simply omit the liquor.
- Another option is to make the eggnog without liquor, but leave a bottle of rum or whiskey on the table or bar next to your pitcher or punchbowl of eggnog. Guests can then spike their individual cup of nog, or not.
- Throughout the year, during shopping excursions to stores such as Ross or TJ Maxx, I keep my eyes open for bottles which are suitable to fill with eggnog and give as gifts. By the time the holidays arrive, we usually have a good number of lovely Italian glass milk bottles, each costing only about two or three dollars each. We chill the eggnog well, pour it into the bottles, pack the bottles in tall slim wine-sized gift bags, and hand the gifts out to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Just remember to keep the eggnog refrigerated or on ice until gift-giving, and alert the recipient that their gift needs to be refrigerated soon.
- You can go one step further with this gift to make it extra special—include a couple of hand-cut, heavy crystal highball glasses along with the homemade eggnog.