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Monday, November 25, 2013

"Christmas is a coming, and the egg is in the nog" (making eggnog at home)

This is a two-step, cooked homemade eggnog. The first step cooks the sweetened egg custard. The second step incorporates the cream and flavorings. "Is it good," you wonder? Everyone's tastes will be different, but according to my family, "this is better than store bought!"

I was going to post this recipe after Thanksgiving, but I had a second thought that seemed to think now would actually be a very good time to post. For those of us hosting Thanksgiving this year, we'll likely have leftover whipping cream and/or half and half. For those of us not hosting, whipping cream is a loss leader sale item at many grocery stores this week, which would make yummy eggnog even more economical to make at home!

Every time my daughters and I venture out to the grocery store (they love to tag along, as they can "influence" some of my purchases this way), we check the dairy case for some "about to spoil" eggnog. That's our family joke about the milk products that I buy. I come in the door and announce, "I scored some milk about to sour -- woo hoo!" In other words, marked down. Anyway, we've been sorely disappointed to not find any eggnog in our price range, so far this year. And not wanting to wait until January 3rd to have our eggnog, a solution needed to be found.

After a few shopping trips with this same ending, I finally thought, "well this is silly. Let's just make some! The recipe is around here somewhere."

So, here's my recipe. It's just a basic recipe, that I've adapted to my own quirks and preferences. I have 3 problems with homemade eggnog.

1) consuming raw eggs, ugh! salmonella? No thanks!
2) egg-y tasting sweet things. I enjoy scrambled eggs, egg salad, and quiche, but just don't care for egg-y sweets.
3) beverage "bits". You know, when cooking egg into a drink, those tiny, stringy bits of egg that somehow escape all my mixing.

So, here's both my recipe and my technique, which address all my quirks.

For a little over 1 quart of eggnog (which, according to my mother, should be enough for 8 servings of 4 ounces each):


4 to 6 whole eggs (I use 4, but feel free to egg it up with 6), or the equivalent in egg beaters
1/2 to 1 cup of granulated sugar (I like 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, sweet but not overly so. Begin with 1/2 cup, and after it is all made, taste, and add more as desired.)
2 cups milk (I use 2 %, but 4% would be richer)
2 cups whipping cream or half and half (I use half and half, and save the whipping cream for a topping)
1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 3/4 teaspoon rum extract)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I like the full amount of nutmeg)
up to 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon in my eggnog, but a small pinch does enhance the flavor, I use just under 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon)

optional extras: 1 to 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (to taste), and an extra pinch each of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, for pumpkin eggnog

brandy, rum and bourbon are the traditional alcoholic enhancements added to eggnog. I prefer to use rum extract for the rum flavoring, then I don't have to worry about inadvertently serving someone alcohol if they don't want, or shouldn't have it.


medium mixing bowl, or top of a 2-qt double boiler
2 quart saucepan, or bottom of a double boiler
electric mixer, or blender
candy thermometer (very important)
spoon for stirring
rubber spatula


--before you do anything else, fill your saucepan or bottom of double boiler 2/3 full of water, and set to a boil on stove.

--Meanwhile, break eggs into mixing bowl or top of double boiler. Add sugar. With an electric mixer, beat well. Scrape sides of bowl and beat again. Mix in milk, scraping sides of bowl.

--Place bowl or top of double boiler onto pan of water. Place your thermometer into the milk mixture, and hang on the side of bowl. You will need to cook this mixture to 160 degrees F (71.11 C). This is important. According to this is the temperature needed, to kill bacteria in egg dishes.

--Cook mixture, stirring occasionally and scraping sides down with rubber spatula, until egg and milk mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Stir the liquid, and test the temperature in several places in your bowl/double boiler. This mixture will coat the backside of your spoon, but more thinly if using fewer eggs.

--When all is 160 degrees F (this should take about 20 - 30 minutes, of occasional attention), remove from heat.

--With electric mixer, beat in cream or half and half. Add spices and extracts. Taste and adjust the sugar or spices. Beat again, until thoroughly incorporated.

--If adding pumpkin/spices or alcohol, use mixer to incorporate.

--Set a mesh strainer over a large pitcher. Pour cooked mixture through the strainer.

--Cover pitcher and chill for 4 hours or overnight. This thickens with chilling. To serve, top with whipped cream and a bit of nutmeg, if desired.

--After chilling, you can use the mixer one more time, to mix in any "skin" that may have formed.

Food safety and homemade eggnog
  • Homemade eggnog should be stored in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below, and only up to 3 days, for optimal food safety.
  • Make smaller batches, if you don't think you can consume an entire batch within 3 days. (I make a half batch at a time. We drink small portions at a time, about 3 to 4 ounces. It really doesn't take that long to make another batch, when we run out.)
  • Don't leave eggnog out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. If serving at a party, you can fill one large bowl with ice, then set a smaller punch bowl with the eggnog, inside, PLUS, add an ice ring to the eggnog. Your ice ring can be made of milk and sugar, flavored with a bit of nutmeg, if desired. Take the temp of the eggnog every 20 to 30 minutes. It should remain at or below 40 degrees. If you don't think you can keep a punch bowl at 40 F for the duration of your event, it is much safer to have a couple of smaller pitchers of eggnog. Bring 1 pitcher out of the fridge at a time, making sure no pitcher remains unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. 

Final note
How thick and creamy your eggnog turns out will be determined by whether you use whipping cream or half and half, whole milk or 2 % milk, 6 eggs or 4 eggs. If you're attempting to make a skim milk version of eggnog, you may want to add a thickener to the egg, sugar and milk. Beat in a bit of corn starch or arrowroot with the eggs and sugar.  And, of course, eggnog can be made with soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and alternative creamer (Trader Joe's carries soy creamer).

Homemade eggnog -- enjoy!


  1. I was just looking at eggnog in the grocery store today--and thought, no, it will be cheaper at Aldi's and I need to hold off on buying it! I really only want one small cup of eggnog a year--it's so rich and sweet--so I'll get some closer to Christmas for the kids to enjoy.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Eggnog is really sweet and rich. I usually cut store-bought eggnog with milk.

  2. I am thoroughly intrigued! I used to love egg nog, but it seems that lately I can barely choke it down because it's just SOOO rich and SOOO sweet! I'm not sure if the recipes are changing or if it's just my taste. But maybe I could attempt to make a version that wasn't quite so sweet and/or rich. Hmmm....

    1. Hi Cat,
      making your own eggnog really does give you control of how it turns out. It's more than just making an eggnog that's not as sweet or rich, too. Here's the list of ingredients of Darigold eggnog:
      Milk and Cream, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Whey, Egg Yolks, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Spice, Dextrose, Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Salt, Mono- and Diglycerides, Annatto and Turmeric (for color), Sorbic Acid (preservative)

      The thickeners get to me. Yuck!
      So, by making my own, I can skip the ingredients that don't sound like they belong in my body.

  3. You are really good at giving instructions. I don't like eggnog, but will recommend you recipe if I hear of someone who wants to try it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Thank you! That's quite a compliment.
      I hope you and your family have a lovely Thanksgiving!

  4. This looks delicious, Lili! Thanks for posting it. We've made home-made eggnog several times with varying results from acceptable to very darned good, but I lost the latter recipe. This looks very similar, and I love all the variations on amounts (your thought process on this is very similar to ours!)

    For anyone who happens to stumble on this again this year, or comes over from the recent whipping cream post, I just wanted to add to your comments on "cutting" the sweet of store-bought eggnog (or the dairy content!)

    For years we've actually often heated up store-bought eggnog (I prefer mine hot, though others like it ice cold), mixing it half eggnog and half canned full-fat coconut milk.

    It's not super-frugal, depending on where you get your coconut milk (I get mine for a little over $2 on-line, usually)-- but the flavor is DELIGHTFUL, it makes the "sweet" a lot less cloying, and it replaces some of the lactose with nice, digestible healthy fat.

    Ours never makes it from hot to cold, but based on our experience with smoothies with coconut milk, I'm guessing that even cold nog folks could do this, if they mixed it well warm or at room temp and re-chilled it, since coconut milk doesn't want to separate once well-combined, and it thickens nicely when it's cold. :)

    Merry Christmas! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I suspect that you do the same thing that I do, and that's tinker with recipes until you get it just as you like it! Homemade eggnog can be approached that way, as well, adding a bit more nutmeg, or vanilla extract, to get just the right flavor. Or using lower fat dairy, for less richness. I like the idea of substituting some coconut milk for part of the dairy. That would be a definite help for me. Almond milk is also a nice alternative milk to use, although, thinner. It has a natural sweetness that goes well in eggnog. Thanks for the suggestion on using coconut milk!


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