by Margaret Cabaniss
It seems fitting that my family’s favorite recipes from my mom’s (Kentucky) side are basically just bourbon-delivery systems — and we love them for it. While she doesn’t actually drink her state booze all that often, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without my mom at the blender, whirring up a batch of Uncle Ezra’s eggnog.
I should note that I have no idea who Uncle Ezra is; he’s not related to us, anyway. For some reason, I picture him as a kindly Colonel Sanders type — except with bourbon instead of fried chicken. (A Southern Santa Claus? Whatever; you get the picture.) At any rate, this stuff is miles better than anything you can buy at the store — and I know I say that all the time, but here it’s really true.
A disclaimer up front: Yes, it contains raw eggs. In the past, my family has usually dealt with this issue by looking the other way when cracking them in the blender, and maybe adding an extra glug of bourbon for good measure…and while none of us has ever gotten sick, I admit it’s not exactly scientific. The truth is, the bourbon will kill some bacteria, and the likelihood that healthy adults will contract salmonella from raw but otherwise sound eggs in the first place is relatively low (moreso if you buy fresh eggs from happy, healthy chickens) — but to be completely safe, food safety experts recommend heating your eggs with a little milk (from the recipe) on low until they reach 160 degrees, then chilling the mixture before proceeding, or buying pasteurized eggs at the store.
The good news: Eggnog actually becomes more delicious the longer it sits in the fridge, a tip I learned from our friend Jimmy at The Book of Jimmy (and independently confirmed through extensive testing last Christmas) — so you can save yourself some trouble by heating a great whack of eggs all at once, mixing a huge pitcher of eggnog, and then just dipping into your supply all week long, as the holiday spirit moves you.
The rest of the process is pretty simple. For one milkshake-sized serving (or two heart-healthy ones), combine the following in a blender:
- 1 egg (heated, pasteurized, or plain, if you’re feeling daring)
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup bourbon (any kind’ll do; it doesn’t have to be fancy)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 crushed ice cubes (not strictly necessary, but I like how it cuts the cream just a bit and makes it extra cold)
Really pulverize the stuff to get the eggnog good and frothy (a minute should do it). If you can stand the wait, let it chill in the fridge a bit (and if it settles, whip briefly to recombine before serving); if not, pour directly into a glass and top with a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. (Yes, fresh makes a huge difference. I tend to get a little carried away, as you may have noticed in the above photo.) Enjoy the slowly spreading warmth and good cheer.
Not a bourbon lover? I feel for you, but there are variations you can try; Jimmy recommends this brandy and spiced rum combination. And, of course, to serve a crowd, simply scale up accordingly. Merry merry!
Images: Margaret Cabaniss