Eggnog gets a bad rap. If you think you don't like it, keep reading. You've probably only ever had the store-bought kind, and it can never be the best and is usually much worse! And if you like the store-bought, you're going to love homemade.
Often associated with the winter holidays, eggnog was just a winter drink in our family. We usually had it whenever my English grandmother came for a winter visit. My mother always made two batches--one with, and one without, alcohol. Eggnog is the classic winter drink that makes any winter day feel like a party!
Lots of people have no qualms about raw eggs, but I do. So I make my eggnog with a cooked custard base. Though I avoid buying eggs from battery-cage operations and always buy the best organic, free-range (pastured and local, if possible) eggs available, I'm just not willing to take a chance with salmonella. Besides, I think the cooked custard makes for an all-around better eggnog. And I always check the temperature.
|Thermapen colors | Photo courtesy of ThermoWorks|
Thermapen has been on my wish list for years. I've been making do with a vastly inferior thermometer; but since becoming "a woman of a certain age," it's just too hard to read, besides being far too slow. So when the Utah (US)-based company behind the English-made Thermapen sent me a shiny red Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer for review, I was thrilled. The large, easy-to-read digital readout (Fahrenheit or Celsius) is just one of many advantages of the Thermapen. I don't have to stick my head in the pan to read it! I like the fact that it has auto on/off--no buttons. With a 1,500-hour battery life, I may never need to replace the battery.
(12/19/15 Update: That model has now been replaced by the Thermapen Mk4, the same great thermometer with a few added benefits!)
And the Thermapen is faster and more accurate than any other cooking thermometer. With speedy 3-second readings, my custard won't curdle while I'm trying to get a reading! I like the fact that it's water-resistent because I can get a little splashy in the kitchen! But I use it for a lot of things besides custard. It's the best way to tell if meat is done to your liking, if bread is thoroughly baked, if oil is hot enough for deep frying. Grilling and barbecue enthusiasts swear by it. Besides, using it just makes you feel like a better cook!
ThermoWorks makes another product (at a lower price point) that also gets rave reviews from cooks: ChefAlarm by ThermoWorks. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm intrigued by the combination thermometer/timer.
I hope you'll give my recipe a try and let me know how you liked it!
(Makes about 2 quarts, sixteen 1/2-cup servings)
6 large egg yolks (Make a batch of meringues with the whites!)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot milk (I use Organic Valley milk and cream)
2 cups cold milk
3 tablespoons to 1/2 cup or more brandy or rum, optional
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg plus more for garnish
1 cup whipping cream
1 At least nine, or up to 24, hours before serving time: In bottom pan of double boiler, heat an inch of water to a gentle simmer. In top pan of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.
2 Gradually whisk in hot milk and cook over hot but not boiling water, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers between 160 and 170 degrees (but do not boil). Just pull a tall stool up to the stove like I do 'cause it's gonna take a while, perhaps 10 minutes.
3 Stir in cold milk. Strain custard into a two-quart bowl; stir in brandy* or rum, vanilla and nutmeg. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours.
*Actually, you could leave out the alcohol and let each person add his own favorite tipple or have it alcohol-free. I just use 3 tablespoons of brandy as a flavoring.
4 To serve: Whip cream until soft peaks form. With wire whisk, gently fold whipped cream into custard. Pour eggnog into chilled 2- or 2 1/2-quart punch bowl or pitcher; sprinkle with nutmeg.