I don’t remember exactly how old I was the first time I tasted store-bought eggnog, but I know I was very young. My mom brought some home from a grocery store a few weeks before Christmas one year. I was apprehensive to drink something with “egg” in the name, but my mom kept saying it was delicious. So…I had one tiny sip…then another bigger sip…and then a full swig. I had fallen in love. I grew up in a household with four sisters and was fortunate just a couple of us liked eggnog. I’m not normally a selfish sort, but I was with eggnog and guzzled down more than my fair share anytime it was in the house. I also know “someone” in my family would hide the quart of eggnog behind the huge gallons of milk so it couldn’t be seen.
I do remember exactly the first time I tasted homemade Traditional Eggnog. It was just three weeks ago, and I fell even more deeply in love. I immediately went into a trance – a trance where I envisioned myself playing the The Minister’s Cat, a Victorian game, while frolicking around the parlor at Scrooge’s nephew’s Christmas Eve party, in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Since I had never made homemade Traditional Eggnog before the age of sixty-three, I did my homework and researched recipe after recipe. Eventually, I decided two of my favorite, and most knowledgeable, foodie gurus, Alton Brown of Food Network and J.Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, had the best info (and recipes) on the topic.
The ultimate decision was whether, or not, to cook the egg mixture. I had to find out if raw eggs were safe to drink, so I did a great deal of research on the topic. HERE and HERE are the best answers to that question. I encourage you to research for yourself, but what I decided is I’ll use pasteurized eggs anytime I make uncooked eggnog.
I also needed to know which type of eggnog tasted best. I made eggnog with cooked eggs and Traditional Eggnog with uncooked eggs, then I conducted a taste test of both eggnogs. The results are as follows:
2-0, in favor of the non-cooked version. (I wanted more people to sample, but only my son and I were available at taste-testing time.)
And, by the way, the “2” were strong votes from two store-bought-eggnog-loving people. The cooked version of eggnog tasted much thicker, sweeter and similar to most store-bought varieties. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as the uncooked version.
Finally, I needed to decide the best amount of time to age Traditional Eggnog before drinking. You see, the claim is, the longer eggnog ages in the fridge, up to a year, the mellower it gets. J.Kenji López-Alt’s article explaining his research proved that isn’t correct. In truth, at 3 weeks, eggnog is at its peak, and after that, more booziness comes to the forefront. In my own testing, the eggnog was very good when made – even better the next day and terrific at 3 weeks. I couldn’t test it after that simply because I had none leftover. One thing for certain…NEVER, ever throw away leftover Traditional Eggnog. It will keep, safely, at least a year in an airtight, glass container. I’m sure you can drink the leftovers within a year.
*By the way, I know star anise isn’t used in eggnog. I used it for photographic beauty, and isn’t it gorgeous!?
Thanks again to Becky Gall Hardin for the terrific photos. Please visit The Cookie Rookie – she has a ton of delicious (and gorgeous) holiday recipes, such as her Toasted S’more Martini.
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown’s Food Network Eggnog recipe.