Eggnog Eccentricities

While some are content with a carton or two of Richfood or Lucerne eggnog, many Virginians have secret family recipes.

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It’s rich and creamy and can’t be beat for washing down ham biscuits and frosted cookies or just taking the edge off the inevitable yuletide stress.

From its commanding spot on the candlelit buffet table, it beckons us with its soft, alabaster folds of whipped eggs, cream, sugar and spirits, all topped with a delicate dusting of nutmeg. While this elegant staple of holiday entertaining has enjoyed a remarkable tenure, eggnog engenders no small amount of controversy.

Notoriously packed with fat and calories, those are certainly not its only vices. Eggnog recipes—especially those found on faded, handwritten cards in your great-grandmother’s recipe box—often call for uncooked eggs and large quantities of alcohol.

While some would argue that, like silver and Oriental rugs, the older the family eggnog recipe, the better, nutritionists provide a different perspective. Delightful as traditional homemade eggnog is, drinking beverages made using raw eggs can be risky, they argue. The Virginia Egg Council recommends using a cooked version of the old eggnog recipes to guard against food-borne illness.

Luckily for those who are reluctant to part with the familiar, we needn’t sacrifice tried and true eggnog receipts. Pasteurized eggs are widely available and a safer alternative for those hosts who want to stick to the traditional.

One thing most eggnog recipes do share is quantity. Because it is such a popular beverage for holiday entertaining, most recipes are for large batches. And while many of us tend to throw out healthy, low-calorie eating plans come mid-November, not everyone is as ready to give up their resolve to eat and drink sensibly. Not everyone will be tempted by eggnog’s siren call.

Fortunately, leftover eggnog is terrific for making great French toast, pancakes and cakes. Or try pouring it over fruit. It comes in handy for an easy trifle, too. Just soak angel food cake in your leftover eggnog, then layer slices with fruit in a glass bowl.

Offered at right are a few samples of treasured eggnog recipes from some of Virginia’s finest kitchens. In some cases, permission from even the extended family was required for publication.


BECKY COOKE’S OLD EGGNOG
  • 7 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup very fine sugar
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 pint whisky or brandy
  • 3 ounces rum
  • grated nutmeg to garnish

Beat egg whites and yolks separately. While beating whites, add 1/2 cup sugar. After beaten stiff, fold whites into yolks. Fold in cream and milk. SLOWLY add spirits and stir thoroughly. Chill. YIELD: 6 1/4 pints Courtesy of Mrs. John Warren Cooke in Mathews County

OLD ENGLISH EGGNOG
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 quart cognac
  • 1 pint rum
  • 4 quarts light cream
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Separate eggs. Beat yolks thoroughly. Gradually add 2 cups sugar and continue beating until creamy. Slowly stir in cognac and rum, then add 3 quarts cream and about half the egg whites. Mix well. Beat remaining egg whites until frothy, gradually add confectioner’s sugar, and continue beating until mixture holds soft shiny points. Stir in remaining cream and gently mix with egg yolk/cognac mixture. Make the night before the party and allow to mellow in refrigerator overnight. YIELD: 25 servings From an anonymous Tazewell County family recipe

GRANDMOTHER EVELINA GREGORY’S EGGNOG

Beat egg yolks of 12 eggs to a cream. Stir in 2 cups of sugar. SLOWLY add 1 1/2 pints of whiskey and 1/4 pint of brandy (Cook’s note: Use apricot or peach brandy, but not apple brandy. Use good whiskey. The strength of eggnog depends on the smoothness of the whiskey). Stir in 1 quart of milk and 1 quart of heavy coffee cream. Last of all, fold in well-beaten whites of eggs. Always make this the night before serving. Can be stored in jars in the refrigerator. Just before serving, add 1 pint of whipping cream. YIELD: About 30 small punch glass servings

Courtesy of Charlotte Coalter Enslowe Ransone from a recipe served by her grandmother at Elsing Green in King William County


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