I waited until December 1 to post this. And you will either love or hate me for it. Once you have this, there is no going back to the regular eggnog from Kroger that you spike yourself.
It is THE RECIPE. I was thinking about doing another Cooking 101, but figured this was much, much more important. It is like eggnog, but not. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of eggnog (it’s a texture thing), but I LOVE THIS RECIPE. I usually wait until Christmas Eve to break out the punch bowl, but in the last few years, it has been making an appearance sooner and sooner. It does keep in the fridge quite well.
And now I’m going to turn it over to the originator of THE RECIPE and special guest blogger, Jennie Burke.
“I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.” Winston Churchill
The Recipe is actually a drink in our family. Commoners may call it Eggnog, but no one that I know would ever ask for that drink here. It’s: The Recipe. Come the first days of December, we Osbornes start to ask one another, “Did you make The Recipe yet?”
Throughout the joyful holiday season we give The Recipe away, and ask for cups at one another’s homes. As the Twelfth night nears, we sigh nostalgic and hope that one more cup will produce from the pitcher. It’s a tradition, and it’s a secret.
When I was 14, I was finally allowed to taste a cup of the golden, vanilla colored, nutmeg dusted, chest-hair frying elixir during an afternoon of tree decorating. After a few sips, I fell asleep on the living room couch, only to awaken to the miracle of a fully decorated tree. Warm, fuzzy and slightly medicated I asked, “What was IN that drink, anyway?”
The recipe was given as a gift to neighbors that we had loved (or offended) over the year. It could remain perfectly stable, well into the summer months, due to the ungodly, self-preserving, near embalming amounts of alcohol. It was not uncommon to have a sip of it after a day at the pool just to say “It’s Still Good!”
I met and fell in love with a Navy pilot before I graduated from college. We lived thousands of miles apart, and I wanted more than anything to be near him – but my old-fashioned upbringing, and his spirit for adventure – prevented either one of us from committing to starting a life together. One Christmas, Mike swallowed his pride, and dropped in for an unexpected, 24 hour visit to chat about our future with my father. Dad was so touched, and mother, so excited, that together they invited Mike into Dad’s mystical kitchen, where Mike would understand the ways of The Recipe. Over beers then scotch, Dad taught Mike how to gently separate then beat (“to a foam”) the dozen yolks. With the precision and intensity of a nuclear scientist, Dad poured streams of Jamaican rum, peach brandy and cognac into the yolks.
After that, the whipping: “Mike you’ve got to whip those egg whites firm. Not done. Keep going. Not done!”
And then, once the whites were in the “stiff peak” form, “Fold them in, Mike. FOLD THEM. FOLD. You’re Stirring! For Christ’s sake, Mike, FOLD! Okay, good! You’re folding. Keep folding! STOP! Stop folding!”
Suffice to say, the lanky, easy-going, dimple chinned All-American flyboy chickened out on the conversation that he had hoped to have with my father. It would have helped if he had been able to remember his own name. Mike departed the next morning, following a sumptuous breakfast of Advil, Gatorade and bacon – tail between his legs, cold diamond ring in his pocket.
Once married, we moved around the country on our Navy adventure, and at Christmas time, took continued comfort in The Recipe. In Iceland, or New Orleans, Corpus Christi, Texas or Brunswick, Maine, we always had access to beaters, booze, some cream and eggs. It was a taste that we knew, year to year – and it packed a buzz to beat the blues of being away from home. When my husband was deployed for half years at a time, I would still make the drink, and share it with new friends from around the world.
When we moved to Louisville, where Mike began a career as a pilot with UPS, we found ourselves in an unfamiliar place. No Navy people or military bases to be found. No beach or water. No family. No friends. Lots of people that had known each other since before they were born. Despite the good intentions of many kind-hearted people, it was a lonely time for us. Finally, we were guided to a family that we felt could truly love and know us. They brought us food when our baby was born. They invited us to their school and their home. They called us on the phone, and invited us when friends were coming over. We shared many adventures together, and when we made our decision to move, finally, “back home” – they embraced us, celebrated us, and hoped that we would stay.
With them, we decided to set The Recipe free.
So, one night during the anticipation of advent, we dropped in on the Shiflets armed with bacchanalian weaponry: a glass bowl, a dozen eggs, dairy galore (should have just brought a cow) and an obscene amount of cheap liquor from Party Mart on Brownsboro Road. We taught Jill and Mark how to “Fold…NOT LIKE THAT you’ve got to FOLD them Mark!” egg whites, and how sprinkle the slightest bit of nutmeg atop the frothy glasses. And in those hours, with children running loose, beaters chattering, fumes capable of igniting a spontaneous combustion filling the kitchen, we were able to commune with friends that had made a difference to us. We dropped our loneliness. We felt like we too had maybe known someone here since before we were born, and we were very, very thankful.
Making The Recipe can be a grand celebration, and a shared experience that can create memories that will span a lifetime. The Recipe can also strap you down, put a lampshade on your head and send you fearlessly out the door to streak naked through Rolling Fields. (True Story.) The Recipe can be a gift to give to a friend, or if you’re lucky during the busy holiday season, to yourself. My hope is that each one of you will be able to find a moment just for you, by your tree, or anywhere, where you can toast what has passed, and consider the joy that could be born in each of us during the coldest, darkest time of the year. And each one of us has our own secret recipe for that kind of hope.
Many thanks to Heidi and StyleBlueprint Louisville for asking me to join them this evening.
NB – You Louisville folks will also know that there exists an Old Pendennis Eggnog Recipe, that comes from the same weathered book as the Old Baltimore recipe. It comes from the famed Pendennis Club in your town – where I was once invited to a birthday lunch with a friend – and she never showed up as she was involved in a minor car accident. Such is Louisville!
Merry Christmas to all!!!
- 12 eggs
- 2 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 cups cognac
- 1 cup jamaica rum
- 1 cup peach brandy
- 6 cups whole milk feel free to substitute 1% - reduce sugar to 2 cups if you do
- 2 cups heavy cream you can reduce it to 1/2 and 1/2
- Separate eggs. Beat Yolks until they foam. Add booze SLOWLY. Then add sugar. Add milk and cream.
- This next part is really important. You need to beat the hell out of the egg whites. Beat them into a stiff, hard meringue. Then, SLOWLY, FOLD them into the egg and liquor mixture.
- This drink is best served chilled. Top glasses with nutmeg. YUM!!!!