Here’s the basic recipe, and then I’ll tell you how it’s been going over the holidays:
– 1 or 2 or 3 Pints organic heavy whipping cream (That’s enough for roughly 10 people)
– 12 fresh eggs (roughly 1 1/2 per person)
– 1 or 2 Whole nutmegs plus something to grate them with by hand.
– 1 or 2 Whole vanilla bean
– Rum on the side, for those who want it
– Honey and Sugar on the side, for those who want it
An hour or so before the Egg Nog Party, follow these steps:
Hint — these are noisy steps, and sometimes messy. That’s why you do them early.
1. Separate the egg whites and yolks and set both aside.
Hint — To keep the whites free of yolk, separate them one by one into a small bowl before transferring the separate white to a bigger, group bowl, so that you don’t end up accidentally breaking a yolk into all those carefully separated egg whites.)
2. Beat the egg whites on the highest setting on your 1977 Sunbeam Mixmaster mixer (or some related mixing device) until the egg whites are fluffy and starting to get stiff. Set the bowl aside in the refrigerator.
Hint — Do NOT overbeat, for if the egg whites get super stiff and you keep the mixer running, then suddenly, the tangle of proteins that has made them into fluffy white peaks will shred, and you’ll be left with a bit of egg white fluff and a bunch of runny clear egg white that will never whip into fluffy peaks again. As another tip, beat the egg whites FIRST, before the whipped cream or yolks, so that the mixing bowl and beaters are dry and free of any oils or fats or other proteins, which can interfere with the egg white beating)
3. Split open the vanilla beans, scrape out the jammy black insides and set the scrapings aside.
Hint — Be sure to enjoy the vanilla smell. So fresh this way, it’s fantastic! Also, if you want, save the vanilla pods to flavor some other things with vanilla, such as steeped in a salad oil for a few days. It makes an exotic flavor. If you do this, be sure to keep it all in the refrigerator.
4. Pour one pint of heavy cream into your mixing bowl with 1/3 of the vanilla bean scrapings, and whip to fluffiness. Set aside in a separate bowl. Repeat for the next two pints of heavy cream, adding each to the whipped cream bowl, then put the final bowl in the refrigerator.
Hint — It works best to whip in three stages to have more control and less mess.
Hint — When whipping, at the first sign of clumping, do a quick final mixing assist with a rubber spatula, then transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl, before it gets whipped into butter.
5. In a freshly cleaned bowl, whip the egg yolks until they’re fluffy and ribbony, then set aside in the refrigerator.
Hint – They won’t stay this way for very long, but their fluffiness is less critical than the egg whites and the whipping cream.
AFTER dinner, or whenever the Egg Nog Party is to begin, follow these steps:
1. Arrange in a pretty, reachable place:
– The bowls of whipped cream, whipped egg whites and beaten egg yolks
– Two additional, empty mixing kind of bowls
– Two rubber spatulas
– Cupsize cups or glasses, 1 for each guest, plus an extra two
– The whole nutmeg and the hand grater
– The rum or cognac
– The honey or sugar
Hint — Let everyone smell the whole nutmeg, then quickly grate a bit of it, and let them smell how much fresher and brighter it suddenly becomes. Then enlist one or two people to grate plenty of nutmeg for everyone, or ask people to take turns grating it into a little dish, or bowl.
3. Demonstrate how to fold the ingredients together to make a small batch of egg nog.
Hint: You do the demo by putting a ladle of whipped cream and egg white together, plus a lot less of the egg yolk, then FOLDING them together somewhat slowly, by using the spatulas. Do NOT mix with a spoon, or do this super quick, because if you do, you’ll wipe out the fluffiness. It’s okay without fluffiness, but much better with it.
4. Remind people that you’re using raw eggs, so if they’re worried about that, they can just make egg nog with whipped cream alone.
5. Let people sample a bit, and make their own, so they can adjust the flavors with the sugar and rum/cognac and nutmeg as they want.
Hint – If a lot of people want sugar or honey, let them do it in one of the bigger bowls, as a group event. But keep one bowl separate for people who don’t want any sweet at all. Such as, maybe, you!
Hint — If you know that some guests are lactose intolerant, then you might have on hand some coconut creme, canned, from the store . . . the rich variety, not the “LITE,” and preferably not homogenized, since you want to use only the thick part at the top of the can, not the clear part underneath.
Hint — Traditionally, people assumed that mixing rum or cognac with the egg yolks would “cook” and sterilize them. I don’t know if this is actually true, but it’s a fun idea, so you might offer it, and if enough people agree and no one wants egg yolks without rum, go ahead and put about 6 capfuls into the yolks.
Hint — I don’t think I’ve ever gotten sick from eating raw eggs in egg nog or mayonnaise, and statistically, the odds are about 1 in 10,000 or so for any contamination such as salmonella. But if there are older people, or younger kids, or someone who’s been on antibiotics or has digestive issues, you do want to watch out for them, because they CAN be more at risk. And there’s a way to pasteurize the eggs ahead of time, but I’ve never done it so can’t tell you how.
In 1977, my grandmother gave me a Sunbeam Mixmaster mixer. I’m still using it today . . . though I skip past most of the special settings that she loved the most — such as 1 – Folding Dry Ingredients. 2 – Cookies. 3 – Muffins,Quick Bread. 4 – One Bowl Cakes. I skip past all these to 9 – Whip Cream and 12 – Beat Eggs/Egg Whites. For these settings help me make homemade egg nog with fresh nutmeg and for many people, not a speck of sugar.
As for my grandmother, she used her mixer mostly for what she loved to make the most, which was cookies — and so when she gave me a mixer over 30 years ago, she picked that sturdy, dependable Sunbeam that I still use today. It’s helped me make sturdy, spicy gingerbread house dough, which I don’t eat anymore but love to help kids decorate. It’s made plenty of other things, but as you know, from the settings I tend to choose, I do not make the cookies, which I don’t eat and which remind me of my grandfather’s diabetes and the congestive heart failure that killed him in his 60s.
No, a mixer like that used by my bubbly and laughter-filled grandmother, for me, is best with my kind of memories today. So it was a wonderful time, this week, when we invited tow families over for dinner, and their young children helped me assemble the egg nog.
Having the children help with grating nutmeg was magical. None of them had ever seen a whole nutmeg before, and when they first smelled what looked like a wrinkled brown little rock, they were skeptical. But when I grated a little then let them smell it again, they broke into smiles with gleeful, twinkling eyes, and still smiling, worked away at grating LOTS of nutmeg. Nutmeg, in huge, huge amounts, is something of a tranquilizer. I have no idea how much it takes to reach a medical dose, but just smelling it, and grating it, is therapeutic, and generous pinches of fresh nutmeg are part of countless recipes, so it’s probably all fine. And this grating was a lovely part of the evening, with the children with me in the kitchen for a moment, while the grownups in the other room talked more freely, not worrying about the kids, and not realizing the surprise that would soon be ready for them.
After grating the nutmeg, I demonstrated the folding of the ingredients to the children. It truly is folding. You reach under the whipped ingredients, and then you lift straight up and fold them all back over. It’s a slower, more regal, and more fluff-protecting style than typical stirring, and the kids appreciated the ceremony of it.
As for sweetening, with one batch, I let them all decide. You see, this IS a special holiday treat, and most people aren’t careful about added sugar the way I am for me personally. I avoid sugar because my pancreas is weak and I don’t want to stress it out. But I’m so accustomed to no sugar, I also don’t even like it anymore. It’s such a relentless, dull kind of thick, blanket sweet, with nothing subtle about it the way the sweetness of red peppers is subtle, or fresh picked parsley. Or some thin-sliced shallots. All those have wonderful, subtle sweets. But table sugar? It messes up my taste buds for hours to come. And it wakes up my hunger. So on sugar-sweet things, I’d rather pass.
The children, however, wanted their egg nog sweet. So we dumped in a bunch of sugar. It was still probably half or a third the sugar that is usually part of that sticky, cloying, addictive and non-fluffy eggnog that’s available in cartons this time of year. But the freshness of this homemade stuff, and the fluffiness, and the way that the children had helped it happen . . . well, they looked at each other like they’d been offered the sweetness from a dream, and enthusiastically, they brought their parents in to have some, too.
We had cleared it with everyone ahead of time, and this group was all comfortable with the fact that the eggs had not been cooked. So we made a big batch with the help of the children, including the sugar to the way the kids wanted it. The adults added a capful of rum to their egg nogs, the children demonstrated the smell of the fresh grated nutmeg, and how to sprinkle it in.
I told my mom’s story about her tee-totalling uncle, who was very austere, but once a year in Kansas, would make egg nog for the whole extended family, maybe 30 people. And get out his special bottle of rum. I told the story about our bottle of rum. How we got it 20 years ago, on a trip to Bermuda, and how we saved it for eggnog. And how it wasn’t empty yet.
We had lots of stories about holiday ceremonies.
Somewhere in this time, I had quietly mixed myself a small batch of egg nog for ME, which meant not a speck of sugar, and still, so wonderful. My taste buds are sensitive enough to sweet flavors, for me, the sugarless egg nog was totally sweet, for I don’t eat dairy foods very often, and even through whipping cream is mostly butterfat, it still has some milk sugars in trace amounts. For me, it tasted incredibly sweet, with the fluffiness, the richness of the flavors. And I like a bit of rum, and the nutmeg even better.
The surprise, for me, came, when one of the moms noticed that I was making a separate batch, just for me, without a speck of sugar. I explained that my pancreas is not strong at producing insulin, and I like this kind of flavor better. And she replied that her daughter is actually prediabetic. And diabetes is common in her family, in fact. She had recently read Richard Johnson’s book, The Sugar Fix. I told her I had just interviewed him and would soon have the transcript on this site. She says she actually likes things with a lot less sugar and sometimes none.
So I think, next time, before adding sugar, I’ll let everybody taste it without and see just what they think. I’ll let them have more of a conversation before assuming that they all want their egg nog highly sweet. I’ll observe who adds how much sugar, and who decides to have it with less. I’ll see if that adds another kind of sweetness, to my egg nog.