’Tis the season for the real stuff. Rich, creamy, and spicy, you can even leave the booze out if you must. But it’s still worth making it from scratch at least once a year.
Egg nog contains raw eggs. Given the recent egg/salmonella scare, most of us are more aware than ever of the potential dangers of undercooked eggs. I admit, at Hearth Cricket we still dive into the homemade mayonnaise and spaghetti carbonara because we buy pastured, organic eggs from a local farmer. He doesn’t wash them, whereas commercial egg producers are required to scrub their eggs with detergent. That removes the naturally occurring barrier against bacteria. In fact, vigorous scrubbing can actually drive bacteria through the shells and into the eggs.
So if you don’t have access to unwashed eggs, you have three choices. You can buy raw, pasteurized eggs at many grocery stores, or you can pasteurize your own eggs at home. Or, since the egg yolks are sufficiently heated to be safe, you can simply skip the final step of folding the whipped egg whites into the nog.
In a large bowl, beat 4 egg yolks until they lighten in color. Slowly beat in 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until fluffy.
Combine 2 cups milk, 3 whole cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Heat slowly until the milk is steaming but not boiling
Temper the egg mixture by very slowly whisking half the milk mixture into the eggs. Add the milk and eggs to the milk remaining in the saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture begins to thicken. It should get to 160 degrees. Do NOT allow to boil or your nog will curdle.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of cream. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the cloves and any inadvertently cooked bits of egg. Let cool for an hour.
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 cup of dark rum. (You can leave the alcohol out entirely, add 1/2 cup of rum, or use half rum and half bourbon or brandy.)
Beat the 4 egg whites to stiff peaks, adding 1 teaspoon of sugar as they whip. Gently fold into egg nog.
Serve chilled, with a dollop of whipped cream on top if you’d like, and a dusting of nutmeg.