November 28, 2012 Aged Eggnog From The Art of Eating no. 90 Credit: Florence and Keith Chamberlin
Its not every day that, before you invite friends over to taste a homemade libation, you have to send it out to a lab first to make certain its safe to drink. But thats exactly what I did with four versions of aged eggnog.
The safety of my guests assured, we settled into a tasting of aged and freshly made eggnog to answer the important question about aged eggnog: Is it worth making? Aged eggnog requires planning ahead. It must be aged for at least three weeks, and most recipes stress that it improves with more time one version suggests a year. The batches I served to my guests had been aged for nearly three months.
The aged and the freshly made batches tasted strikingly different. The aged eggnog was rounder, smoother, and noticeably more complex, with a satisfying start-to-finish flavor that was as adult as its alcohol content.
I like to think that aging eggnog is connected to the seasonal cycles of harvest and putting food by. Could it be that eggnog was originally made in early fall to take advantage of that seasons abundant eggs, before the dimmest days of winter curtailed or brought an end to a hens egg laying? (Light, weather, and diet all affect laying; todays high-production hens, staggered breeding throughout the year, and artificially lit chicken houses have resulted in a constant supply of eggs year-round.)
A flurry of media activity about aged eggnog followed a 2006 Chow.com story presenting the family recipe of Jonathan Hunt. The Hunts recipe, which is made with egg yolks, sugar, spirits, milk, and cream and left to age for one year, can be traced back to 1926, when Hunts grandfather, then living in Shanghai, acquired the recipe. The story goes that George P. Hunt attended the famed expat holiday parties for years before finally prying the recipe out of one Otis Terrell, who had pried it out of a Virginia lumber executive named Carl Seitz.
More than 80 years later, the tradition continues. Every Thanksgiving or soon after, the family holds an eggnog party during which guests are assigned various tasks separating the dozens of eggs, beating the yolks with sugar, and, finally, adding the spirits and dairy and stirring gently for one hour. The eggnog is poured into bottles and divided among the partygoers to be aged until the following years holiday season. The Hunts consider the aged eggnog to be ready to drink, similar in potency and consistency to a dairy-based liqueur, such as Baileys; they do not fold in whipped cream or whipped egg whites (unlike the Chow.com version, which Hunt subsequently corrected on SFist.com). I have tried this eggnog both ways and have found that the addition of fluffy clouds of beaten whites and cream does nothing for the Hunts recipe. Here the lightness, though traditional and pleasing in many recipes, is a distraction from the inherently bracing quality of the eggnog, diluting the flavor and adding unnecessary richness. The Hunt family continues to prepare the recipe as it always has, stirring with a wooden spoon used for nothing else.
A second version of aged eggnog, published in Kevin Weekss blog Seriously Good, requires making a base of whole eggs, sugar, and spirits, aging it for a month, and adding dairy at serving. Weekss recipe came from his father, a Southerner, who adapted it from one in a well-worn 1951 copy of The Wise Encyclopedia of Cooking. A reference to aged eggnog appears in the first, 1948, edition of this cookbook, where the editor recommends aging the nog for one to two months.
A third recipe, also with Southern roots, comes from the late Dr. Rebecca Lancefield, a prominent microbiologist who joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1918. There, according to Dr. Vincent Fischetti, her eggnog recipe has been made for at least 50 years. Lancefields version, a ready-to-drink eggnog made with whole eggs and dairy and aged for three to four weeks, came to light in a 2008 NPR Science Friday video.
Fischetti and his colleagues at the Rockefeller Institute decided to make a controlled study of Lancefields aged eggnog. After intentionally tainting the drink with salmonella bacteria and studying the results in petri dishes, they discovered that aged eggnog is actually safer to drink than fresh eggnog made with raw eggs because the alcohol, after three weeks, kills any trace of salmonella. You can see the lab results at ScienceFriday.com.
Today eggnog is associated with winter holidays, a punch bowl, and a punch-bowl-size crowd. But during the 18th and much of the 19th century, eggnog was just one of several egg-based drinks that were popular throughout the year, prepared as individual servings in taverns and bars.
Where the traditional shaken eggnog cocktail, concocted and downed immediately, would not have benefited from even a moment of maturing, the best punch-bowl-size recipes, then and now, allow for some aging, calling for chilling the eggnog for at least a few hours or better yet overnight before serving to meld the flavors and dispel any egginess.
The recipe that follows is an improved version of the made-to-order eggnog cocktail. It combines the immediacy of being prepared and quaffed on the spot with the showmanship of a cocktail shaker and the depth of flavor (and safety, if consuming raw eggs is a concern) that only aged eggnog can supply.
|Aged Eggnog Cocktail|
|The single-serving eggnog cocktail is perfect for intimate holiday parties where the number of people gathered is too small to warrant dragging out a punch bowl. To prepare, the aged base is combined with milk and cream, shaken in a cocktail shaker, and served straight up. You can also serve it on the rocks, but the ice quickly dilutes the eggnog, leaving a less luxurious texture.|
|to make the aged eggnog base|
|1 dozen eggs
1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons(making 340 gr)
12 ounces (1½ cups, 350 ml) bourbon
4 ounces (½ cup, 125 ml) cognac
2 ¾; ounces (1/3 cup, 75 ml) dark rum
a pinch of salt, preferably coarse gray sea salt
|In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer at the lowest possible speed (a stand mixer set to stir is ideal), beat the eggs and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, about 2 minutes (or 5 minutes if you beat by hand). Add the spirits very slowly, about a teaspoon at a time, while beating constantly with an electric mixer on the lowest possible speed or by hand to avoid froth, about 20 minutes if you add the spirits too quickly, it will curdle the eggs. Finally, beat in the salt.
Bottle in a clean glass jar. Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks, periodically turning the jar, gently, to mix the contents. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve before using to remove any curdled egg. Makes 5½ cups (1.3 liters), enough base to make 16 eggnogs.
|2¾ ounces (75 ml) aged eggnog base
1¼ ounces (35 ml) whole milk
¼ ounce (7 ml) heavy cream
|Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the eggnog base, milk, and cream and shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds. Double-strain through a small, fine-mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. (Double-straining keeps shards of ice from entering the glass: use the built-in strainer that comes with your cocktail shaker, or a bar strainer if you use a two-part Boston shaker, and in addition pour it through a fine-mesh strainer.) Top with a grating of nutmeg.|
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