Eggnog, or egg nog (About this sound pronunciation (help·info)), is a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, and whipped eggs (which gives it a frothy texture). Spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon are often added. The finished serving is often garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg. Some recipes call for the mixture to be heated to a safe temperature, to protect from eggs possibly contaminated with salmonella; egg-nog freshly made with contaminated eggs is not safe, despite the presence of alcohol. Eggnog with alcohol keeps well, and is often considered to improve when aged for up to a year.
Eggnog is traditionally consumed throughout Canada and the United States from American Thanksgiving through the end of the Christmas seasons every year. Eggnog or eggnog flavoring may also be added as to food or drink, such as coffee (e.g. an "Eggnog Latte" espresso drink) and tea. Eggnog as a custard can also be used as an ice cream flavor base.
The origins, etymology, and the ingredients used to make the original eggnog drink are debated. Eggnog may have originated in East Anglia, England; or it may have simply developed from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk; eggs were added to some posset recipes. The "nog" part of its name may stem from the word noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol. However, the British drink was also called an Egg Flip, from the practice of "flipping" (rapidly pouring) the mixture between two pitchers to mix it.
One very early example: Isaac Weld, Junior, in his book Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797 (published in 1800) wrote: "The American travellers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together;..."
In Britain, the drink was popular mainly among the aristocracy. Those who could get milk and eggs mixed it with brandy, Madeira or sherry to make a drink similar to modern alcoholic egg nog. The drink is described in the 1932 novel Cold Comfort Farm (chapter 21) as a Hell's Angel, made with an egg, two ounces of brandy, a teaspoonful of cream, and some chips of ice, where it is served as breakfast.
The drink crossed the Atlantic to the British colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was a cost-effective substitute. The inexpensive liquor, coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products, helped the drink become very popular in America. When the supply of rum to the newly founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, Americans turned to domestic whiskey, and eventually bourbon in particular, as a substitute.
The Eggnog Riot occurred at the United States Military Academy on 23–25 December 1826. Whiskey was smuggled into the barracks to make eggnog for a Christmas Day party. The incident resulted in the court-martialing of twenty cadets and one enlisted soldier.
Traditional eggnog is made of milk or cream, sugar, raw eggs, an alcoholic spirit, and spices, often vanilla or nutmeg. Some modern commercial eggnogs add gelatin and other thickeners, with less egg and cream. There are variations in ingredients, and toppings may be added.
Eggnog can be made commercially, as well as domestically. Ready-made eggnog versions are seasonally available with different spirits, or without alcohol, to be drunk as bought or used as "mixes" with all the ingredients except the liquor, to be added as desired.
Dutch advocaat with around 20% alcohol, long sold in bottles, is essentially an eggnog. Under current U.S. law, commercial products sold as eggnog are permitted to contain milk, sugar, modified milk ingredients, glucose-fructose, water, carrageenan, guar gum, natural and artificial flavorings, spices, monoglycerides, and colorings. Ingredients vary significantly between variants.
The history of non-dairy eggnogs goes back to at least 1899 when Almeda Lambert, in her Guide for Nut Cookery, gave a recipe for "Egg Nog" made using coconut cream, eggs, and sugar.
In 1973, Eunice Farmilant, in The Natural Foods Sweet-Tooth Cookbook, gave a more modern non-dairy eggnog recipe using 3 eggs separated, 2 tablespoons of barley malt extract or Amasake syrup, 4 cups of chilled soy milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and nutmeg, (p. 138-39)
In December 1981, Grain Country of Los Angeles, California, introduced Grain Nog, the earliest known non-dairy and vegan eggnog. Based on amazake (a traditional Japanese fermented rice beverage) and containing no eggs, it was available in plain, strawberry, and carob flavors.
Also in December 1981, Redwood Valley Soyfoods Unlimited (California) introduced Soynog, the earliest known soy-based non-dairy and vegan eggnog based on soy milk and tofu (added for thickness). It was renamed Lite Nog in 1982 and Tofu Nog in 1985.
Eggnog as a custard
Some recipes for homemade eggnog call for egg yolks to be cooked with milk into a custard to avoid potential hazards from raw eggs. (Some of these recipes call for any liquor used to be added beforehand, in the belief that the alcohol will evaporate during cooking.) Eggnog has much in common with classic custard-pudding recipes that do not call for cornstarch, and many types of eggnog can also be cooked into egg-custard puddings, or churned into eggnog-flavored ice cream.
While alcohol is a bactericide, eggnog freshly made from eggs infected with salmonella and not heated can cause food poisoning. In 1982 most of the residents and staff of a nursing home in the U.S. became ill with salmonella poisoning, and four died. The cause was almost certainly an eggnog made on the spur of the moment, with some cases caused in a secondary outbreak caused by food being handled later by people with contaminated hands. A later publication of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that the alcohol in eggnog is not sufficient to sterilize contaminated eggs. Using commercial pasteurized eggs or heating the milk-egg mixture sufficiently can make the drink safe; one recipe calls for heating the mixture gently, without boiling, until it thickens enough to "coat the back of a spoon".
However, aged alcoholic eggnog becomes sterilized even if made with contaminated eggs. Aging alcoholic eggnog—sometimes for as long as a year—has been said to improve its flavor significantly, and also destroys pathogens. The Rockefeller University Laboratory of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Immunology carried out an experiment in 2010 where salmonella was added to a strong eggnog which was refrigerated and stored; the beverage still had dangerous levels of salmonella a week later, but it was all gone within three weeks. A concentration of at least 20% of alcohol (about the same amounts of alcoholic spirits and milk or cream), and refrigeration are recommended for safety.
For concerns about the safety of selling products made from raw eggs and milk, the U.S. FDA has changed or altered the definition of eggnog a number of times towards artificial replacements for the large number of eggs traditionally used. FDA regulations (as of January 2015) require eggnog to contain at least 1% egg yolk solids and at least 8.25% milk solids.
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- Rombauer, Irma S. and Marion Rombauer Becker (1931 ) The Joy of Cooking, pp 48, 50. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. ISBN 0-452-25665-8.