Listen, I’m no Boston transplant (cough Eric Ginsburg). I’m Carolina born and bred, even if I’ve lost some of my accent due to college and befriending Yanks. So you can trust me when I say my family’s eggnog is some of the best around.
We’ve been getting together for 20-plus years to make Dead Man’s Eggnog, a recipe borrowed from a family friend and tweaked to include extravagances like vanilla and more booze. It’s a detour from my Great Uncle Joe’s recipe, which required long hours stirring over low heat. He was a pastry chef who worked winters at Miami’s historic Fontainebleau hotel, so he had the patience and talent to pull it off, unlike the rest of us.
A few years ago, one of my uncles was concerned about bacteria in raw eggs, so they tried Great Uncle Joe’s technique again, predictably making scrambled eggs and ruining the batch. So far, though, the Dead Man’s recipe ironically hasn’t killed us or given us E. coli, and it’s so easy to make, we can have a couple drinks while we make it without ruining the recipe.
Separating the eggs is the first and hardest part. The key is breaking them on a flat surface rather than the edge of the bowl, and transferring the egg yolk from one half-shell to the other a couple times to let the whites drip into the bowl. We add a half-cup of sugar to the whites and one cup to the yolks, and take a mixer to each one, making sure the whites get good and stiff. After we spoon the whites into the yolks, we add the good stuff: two pints whipping cream, two pints whole milk, one tablespoon vanilla and finally, “brown liquor,” as my grandfather calls it.
We like three pints blended bourbon (you really can’t add too much) and three ounces of dark rum. This year, we experimented with brandy in place of rum, but I couldn’t tell a difference. (What’s three ounces to three pints, really?)
We’re not alcoholics, but we make two batches a few weeks before Christmas, and since that’s long gone by Christmas day, we’ll make one more later to share with relatives.
It’s best to let it sit a day, which helps the foam settle. Even then, you’ll want to stir it up real good in the pitcher before you drink it, and sometimes, I take a spoon to it while I’m sipping. (Is that Southern?) Sprinkle a little nutmeg in your glass, and you’ve got a bona fide Southern delicacy.
Many of my friends have told me they’ve never had fresh, homemade eggnog. Just this once, try it yourself. If you don’t like brown liquor, fine. If you don’t like eggs, try a vegan substitute — which would be really interesting. If you don’t like vanilla, there’s no hope for you.
No matter how you make it, let us know what you think when you stop by TCB’s holiday gathering at LaRue in downtown Greensboro this Wednesday night. I’ll see you there!