Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Egg Nog: An American Christmas Classic with a British Heritage

Egg Nog

Recipe Provenance
The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).

The Recipe: Egg Nog
Miss Hoffman
To make four gallons of Egg Nog, two gallons of cream, one gallon & one quart of new milk, two lb. lump sugar, three pints of French Brandy, half-pint Peach Brandy, thirty-three eggs. Pound the sugar & beat it with the eggs very light, then stir in the Brandy slowly on it till well mixed. Then the cream & milk, stirring all very well.

About Eggnog
The first written mention of eggnog dates back to 1796 when it was listed as a breakfast item at City Tavern in Philadelphia. While the iteration of the particular drink known as eggnog is an American thing, cream and/or egg based drinks infused with spirits is definitely based on English tradition. These types of drinks were usually called possets, sack possets, or even some types of syllabubs). Here are some examples of these recipes dating back to the 17th century from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened by Sir Kenelm Digby (London, 1669):

Put a pint of good Milk to boil; as soon as it doth so, take it from the fire, to let the great heat of it cool a little; for doing so, the curd will be the tenderer, and the whole of a more uniform consistence. When it is prettily cooled, pour it into your pot, wherein is about two spoonfuls of Sack, and about four of Ale, with sufficient Sugar dissolved in them. So let it stand a while near the fire, till you eat it.

Take three pints of Cream; boil in it a little Cinnamon, a Nutmeg quartered, and two spoonfuls of grated bread; then beat the yolks of twelve Eggs very well with a little cold Cream, and a spoonful of Sack. When your Cream hath boiled about a quarter of an hour, thicken it up with the Eggs, and sweeten it with Sugar; and takPage 113e half a pint of Sack and six spoonfuls of Ale, and put into the basin or dish, you intend to make it in, with a little Ambergreece, if you please. Then pour your Cream and Eggs into it, holding your hand as high as conveniently you can, gently stirring in the basin with the spoon as you pour it; so serve it up. If you please you may strew Sugar upon it.

You may strew Ambred sugar upon it, as you eat it; or Sugar-beaten with Cinnamon, if you like it.

Take half a pint of Sack, and as much Rhenish wine, sweeten them to your taste with Sugar. Beat ten yolks of Eggs, and eight of whites exceeding well, first taking out the Cocks-tread, and if you will the skins of the yolks; sweeten these also, and pour them to the wine, add a stick or two of Cinnamon bruised, set this upon a Chafing-dish to heat strongly, but not to boil; but it must begin to thicken. In the mean time boil for a quarter of an hour three pints of Cream seasoned duly with Sugar and some Cinnamon in it. Then take it off from boiling, but let it stand near the fire, that it may continue scalding-hot whiles the wine is heating. When both are as scalding-hot as they can be without boiling, pour the Cream into the wine from as high as you can. When all is in, set it upon the fire to stew for 1/8 of an hour. Then sprinkle all about the top of it the juyce of a 1/4 part of a Limon; and if you will, you may strew Powder of Cinnamon and Sugar, or Ambergreece upon it.

Here is a recipe from the 18th century from Court Cookery, or the Compleat English Cook by R. Smith (London, 1725):

Modern Recipe Adaptation: Egg Nog
Serves 10-12

  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Pasteurized Eggs (such as Egglands Best Brand)
  • 3/4 Cup French Brandy
  • 1 Tablespoon Peach Brandy
  • 4 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cups Whole Milk
  • Grated Nutmeg, Optional
  1. Place the sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Whisk  them together until light and fluffy.
  2. Whisk in the two types of brandy.
  3. Add the cream and milk and whisk until frothy.
  4. Ladle into serving glasses and sprinkle a small amount of nutmeg over the tops of each glass, if desired.

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