It has been a tradition of ours for decades now to have a large holiday party where egg nog and champagne are the beverages of choice. The champagne is usually cheap and plentiful and the egg nog homemade, strong and tasty. The fact that it is home made seems to startle the guests and elicits a lot of questions: What’s in egg nog? Is it hard to make? Do you cook the eggs?
I still recall the first batch of home made egg nog I ever made. The recipe came from my roommate’s father in 1988: my dad makes this awesome egg nog that is pretty strong and everyone loves. Mr. Sargent’s recipe was straightforward: whip together a dozen egg yolks with a cup of sugar and add in a quart each of heavy cram and milk. Add a quart of your favorite booze (we mixed thirds of 151, Capt. Morgan’s, and brandy) and then fold in 12 whipped egg whites. Top with nutmeg and serve.
It’s a simple recipe as long as you are not trying to yield more than a couple gallons of nog. I think we maxed out one year with six gallons of the stuff. Separating that many eggs is no small task. This recipe is still my favorite because it brings back a flood of good college memories and I usually throw on Neil’s “Hot August Nights” while making it because, for some reason or other, it reminds me of my roommate.
Over the years, I started getting some negative reactions to the nog recipe. Everyone still loved the taste but the thought of drinking un-cooked egg, no matter how much alcohol was accompanied with it, turned people off. I tried the recipe with irradiated eggs for a couple years but given the volume we were making, it got kind of expensive. In 1991, I discovered a new recipe. It came from the home-making diva herself, Martha Stewart (It is published in her 1996 Holiday magazine).
Martha’s recipe is slightly more complex that Mr. Sargent’s and yields very tasty ice cream-like nog. The other advantage is that Martha’s is cooked so no one is turned off by it. Of course, being Martha, it is a bit more difficult to make but it is a labor of love. It eventually became a tradition of sorts to have a kitchen-full of people separating eggs and helping to whip up the annual batch on the eve of the annual party.
Last night, I put on Neil and with memories of holidays past swimming through my head, I started simmering a quart of milk with a split vanilla bean. While that the bean is imparting it’s goodness to the milk, I separate a dozen eggs and mix the yolks with 1 and ½ c of sugar and 1/2tsp. salt. Temper the egg mixture and then add to the simmering milk. Allow this to thicken, over medium heat while constantly stirring, until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and add 1pt whipping cream and 1pt milk then let cool. Martha then adds a quart of her favorite booze but since we have a lot of children at the party these days, I leave it out and let folks spike their own. I usually have decent bottles of bourbon (my spiking liquor of choice), spiced and flavored rums, cognac and brandy on hand for this job. You finish off the nog by topping it with 1pt of cream whipped with 1/2c sugar then sprinkled with freshly shaved nutmeg. This year, I multiplied the recipe by 3 and made enough to yield about 2 gallons. It’s not the kind of volume we’d make in years past but I am sure it will be enjoyed just as much.