Category: christmas

Preserving Tradition: Homemade Eggnog

Guar gum, carrageenan, and natural flavour? Is this what you want in your holiday eggnog? Drinking my first eggnog of the holiday season, I wondered – what is eggnog and how can I make it at home without strange additives and preservatives?
On all matters culinary, the wise cook consults Larousse Gastronomique, a culinary encyclopedia bar none. Eggnog is described in Larousse as a ‘nourishing drink served either hot or cold’. Larousse is not very helpful this time. The drink, in its non-carton state, is simple enough to make: egg yolks beaten with sugar are incorporated into hot milk. As a seasonal nog drinker, I am concerned with its delicious properties, not so much its nourishing qualities. The debate about uncooked egg yolks leads me to believe that many people don’t consider fresh eggnog nourishing, and instead see it as a ticking time bomb of unpasteurized bacteria. Fear of uncooked yolks will not deny me the supreme pleasure of making my first homemade eggnog.
Eggnog lore suggests well-heeled Brits were the first to drink eggnog with brandy or sherry during the holiday season to toast good health. Its name literally, is egg in a small cup (or nog). North Americans adopted eggnog easily, and having more access to land, cattle, and thus, milk and eggs – were larger consumers of the drink than its originators. Variations include the New Orleans syllabub, eggnog of milk, sugar and wine and the Puerto Rican coquito with coconut and condensed milk, spices and rum.   Larousse shockingly alerts me to the possible addition of beer, a German soup-like eggnog specialty called Biersuppe. 
I want a choir of angels to sing when I taste my first fresh eggnog; Larousse’s recipe is far too simple to summon angels. A more contemporary source might do the trick, an arbiter of style – the New York Times food and drink section, is the source for me.  Eggnog’s creamy base begs for the addition of holiday flavours – cinnamon and nutmeg – or a tipple of spiced rum, but what about scotch?  A clever New York Times columnist, Melissa Clark, raved about the Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog with smoky scotch and brown sugar. This may be the eggnog for me.
Whipping the eggs, adding the brown sugar, salt, and homemade vanilla, I knew deliciousness beyond any carton was about to occur. Hark! Rich, creamy, smoky and sweet, the angels and my palate were singing and I knew this was a holiday tradition in the making – preservative free. 

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog

Eggnog with Beer (Biersuppe)
from Larousse Gastronomique

9 cups pale ale
2 ¼ cups sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp lemon zest, grated
¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
8 egg yolks
1 tbsp milk, cold
2/3 cup raisins & currants, soaked in warm water
1 cup whole wheat croutons

1.  Boil pale ale with sugar, salt, lemon zest and cinnamon.
2.  Add egg yolks with cold milk to ale mixture.
3.  Strain eggnog and let cool.
4.  Add currants and raisins to eggnog.
5.  Add croutons and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog
from the New York Times, December 3, 2010

12 large eggs, separated
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus pinch
2 cups whole milk
1 cup smoky Scotch whisky
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Grated nutmeg
1. In a large bowl, combine the yolks, brown sugar, vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using an electric mixer beat on medium-high speed until thick and dark golden, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and slowly drizzle in the milk, Scotch and brandy. Transfer to the freezer to chill while preparing the rest of the eggnog. (Or refrigerate for at least 2 hours before completing.)
2. In a medium bowl, whip the cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside. In another medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites and pinch of salt on medium-high speed, adding the sugar by tablespoons until soft peaks form.
3. When ready to serve, pour the yolk mixture into a large punchbowl. Fold in a small amount of whipped cream to lighten it, then fold in the remaining cream. Fold in the egg whites. Generously dust the top with nutmeg; serve immediately.
Yield: 12 servings.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Christmas is almost here! In my house, baking starts today. Sugar, flour, eggs, ginger, sprinkles and vanilla are about to explode all over my kitchen. Vanilla is the cornerstone of any great baked good, a hint of flavour or a booster for other flavours. In June, inspired by Jacqui, co-founder of the Cross Country Baking Club, I started my own batch of vanilla extract. It is extraordinarily simple to make your own vanilla extract and a great gift for the bakers in your life.
June 2010 – Vodka & Vanilla Beans

December 2010 – Vanilla Extract! 

Vanilla Extract

5 vanilla beans
1 cup vodka, brandy, rum

1. Cut vanilla beans lengthwise to reveal seeds. Cut into 1.5 inch pieces. 
2. Place vanilla beans in sterilized jar. 
3. Top with alcohol of your choice. 
4. Tighten lid and wait 6-8 weeks, until alcohol has changed colour and vanilla has steeped.

Yield: One cup vanilla extract.