Eggnog (or egg nog, depending on which style camp you come from) is awesome. Seriously – sweetened custard in a liquid form that is designed to be mixed with a wide range of other awesome things, like brandy, or coffee, or butterscotch schnapps and rum, or French toast, or oatmeal.
And because it’s December, that means eggnog is in season! So, should you DIY or buy your holiday awesome?
The store-bought eggnog contains milk, cream, sugar, nonfat dry milk, whey, egg yolks, gelatin, nutmeg, annatto, turmeric (for color), and natural and artificial flavors.
My homemade eggnog mostly follows a recipe from The Joy of Cooking. The book actually offers 2 different recipes – one cooked, the other not cooked. While the chances of catching salmonella from eggs that have not been produced in rat-infested factories is 1 in 10,000 (or a .0001 percent chance), I decided to go with the cooked eggnog, as the store-bought is pasteurized. (My husband has a few free-range laying hens, so I’m certain that the eggs came from a rat-free coop.)
The recipe is as follows:
3 cups heavy cream, divided
3 cups milk, divided
12 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
First, separate a dozen eggs. You’ll use the yolks for this recipe – save the whites for an omelet or meringue. Whisk the sugar and spices into the yolks. Set aside. Next, heat 2 cups milk and 2 cups cream over medium-low heat, just until bubbles start to form around the edge of the saucepan. Slowly whisk the hot milk/cream mixture into the yolk mixture, then put it all back in the saucepan and heat to 175 degrees. Try to be precise – overheating this will result in curdling and frustration. At 175 degrees, pull the custard off heat and mix in the remaining cup of milk and cup of cream. Stir. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Cool.
Now, you can mix in 2 tablespoons of vanilla OR 1 ½ cups of strong coffee OR ½ cup of your favorite spirits. Or you can toss it into the fridge and add a bit of your flavoring of choice to each individual cup.
Time and Cost Comparison
The store bought eggnog took no time at all, and at $2.19 for 1 quart, cost about $0.07 per ounce.
My homemade eggnog took about 45 minutes to make, and made an estimated 2.4 quarts (enough to just barely fit in a 2.5 quart bowl). At a total cost of $5.24, that’s also about $0.07 per ounce.
A serving of the store eggnog (1/2 cup) has 250 calories, 12 grams of fat, 70 mg of cholesterol, 100 mg of sodium, 30 grams of carbs and 6 gram of protein.
A serving of the homemade eggnog has 206 calories, 12.7 grams of fat, 192 mg of cholesterol, 33 mg of sodium, 20 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein.
And this is why eggnog should only be consumed one month of the year.
The eggnogs are very similar. In addition to the homemade recipe ingredients, the store-bought version has nonfat dry milk, whey, gelatin, annatto (a food coloring/flavoring taken from the seed pulp of the achiote tree) and turmeric. Natural and artificial flavorings could be considered things like vanilla and rum flavors, which you may add to your homemade version.
The two-person taste test was definitive: store-bought was the favorite for being thicker and richer. Not to say that homemade was bad – indeed, it was delicious. Just not *as* delicious.
Homemade PITA factor:
4.5. This isn’t a complex recipe, but you have to be very attentive and very careful when heating and mixing the milk, cream and eggs. Screw it up, and you’ll end up with extra-creamy scrambled eggs or curdled cream. Also, it was challenging to whisk eggs and pour in the hot milk/cream mixture at the same time, but that could be a result of the saucepan I chose. The non-cooked version would rate even higher on this scale, as it involves a lot of “mix this, chill 3 hours, add that, chill another hour, add more, chill more” etc…
DIY or Buy?
Buy. The homemade stuff kind of separates out in storage, it goes bad quickly, it takes almost an hour to make and there’s a high potential to screw it up if you aren’t careful. The store stuff tastes great, has no offensive ingredients (unless you’re vegan, of course), costs the same as DIY and is just as easy to customize to your own personal taste with the addition of spirits and coffee. Spend your time enjoying the holidays. Buy your eggnog.