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Eggnog -- a Renaissance-era comfort food
(CNN) -- In earlier times, eggnog was a favored drink among the nobility and upper classes. But these days, anyone who knows his or her way to the dairy case can enjoy this holiday taste of luxury.
"I have absolutely no idea why we only drink it at Christmas," Linda Braun, consumer services director for the suburban Chicago, Illinois-based American Egg Board, says with a laugh. "But 'noggin' means a small cup. We think part of the name came from that."
The drink was really a Renaissance-era comfort food, Braun says. "It was a nutrient-rich drink that people could have when they weren't feeling well."
Other sources describe eggnog as a descendant of a hot British drink called posset, which was a mixture of eggs, milk, ale or wine. English colonists brought it across the ocean, employing such New World spirits as rum and bourbon.
"If you look way back to the wassail bowl, those were often alcoholic," says Braun. "Eggnog was served at the same events."
According to John F. Mariani, author of The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, "nog" is also an old English term for ale, dating to the 1600s. In England, the drink was additionally known as an egg flip.
Whatever its origins, there's no doubt that eggnog takes pride of place in many traditional holiday celebrations. A good eggnog recipe can become part of family history -- nobody, after all, can make eggnog like Grandma.
Unless you're planning on a trip to the grocer's dairy case, making eggnog can be labor intensive. In these salmonella-conscious days, consuming raw eggs is also a no-no. So careful preparation is necessary to ensure your wassail bowl is safe as well as tasty.
Try this recipe, courtesy of the American Egg Board:
Classic Cooked Eggnog
In large saucepan, beat together eggs, sugar and salt, if desired. Stir in 2 cups of the milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film and reaches at least 160°F.
Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight.
Just before serving, pour into bowl or pitcher. Garnish or add stir-ins, if desired. Serve immediately.
For faster preparation heat milk until very warm before stirring milk into eggs and sugar.
MICROWAVE: In 2-quart liquid measure or bowl, beat together eggs, sugar and salt (if desired) until thoroughly blended. Set aside. In l-quart liquid measure or bowl, cook 2 cups of the milk on full power until bubbles form at edges, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Stir into egg mixture. Cook on 50-percent power until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film and reaches at least 160°F, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Stir in remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. Continue as above.
Garnishes and stir-ins:
Choose 1 or several:
Note: All microwave cooking times are based on a full power output of 600 to 700 watts. For a lower wattage oven allow more time.
Braun notes that eggnog recipes can become low-calorie by substituting skim milk for whole or low-fat varieties. By the same token, you can up the ante on your eggnog with half-and-half, or even heavy cream.
'Tis the season for holiday drinks
American Egg Board
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