There are many traditions I associate with Christmas from my childhood. Our Christmas stockings were these enormous stockings my mother knit for each of us. We may have hung them from the chimney with care, but on Christmas morning, I'm pretty sure they were ripped down with excitement and anticipation of what they held. These things were the holy grail of Christmas stockings because they STRETCHED to fit tons of stuff. We all still have our stockings and my mom knit new ones for the spouses and grandkids too. I hang ours every year.
Another family Christmas staple -- a fresh-cut tree. My father took this pretty seriously. As far as I can remember, he always went out and tagged a tree and returned either on his own or with a kid or two in tow to cut it down. I'm sure there were some exceptions to that, but the importance of a fresh tree made it hard for me to break the news to my dad that my own tree was a fake one I took out of the attic every year. (He took the news well.) Dad was sure to cover the tree in loads and loads of tinsel...you know that shiny stringy stuff, you could just recklessly toss all over the tree? My poor mother was still vacuuming up that stuff in July. It's like it multiplied and stuck to every crevice of the living room.
Another tradition my dad introduced to our family was eggnog. It was something we looked forward to every year. He would make a batch of that eggy, creamy goodness with a hint of rum. There's nothing fancy about the recipe - it's simple and classic - but the tradition associated with it really is something special to me. Every one of us in the family still remembers my dad's eggnog so fondly. I asked my mom if this was something passed down to him or if his own family used to make it during his childhood, but it seems that he probably picked up the recipe somewhere along the way and decided to start the tradition with us.
My dad is no longer with us, but I've tried to carry on the eggnog tradition on my own, as I make a batch or two each year. I don't mess with the ingredients much. If you wanted to try using bourbon instead of rum, that would be an interesting change and would still follow fairly standard eggnog methodology. According to Alton Brown, bourbon is a more modern version, while rum was the tradition in colonial days. Back then, most people had access to cows, chickens and rum, so the nog was a natural holiday choice as it basically consists of cream, milk, eggs and rum. I believe we have the British to thank for this drink initially - they may have referred to it as an Egg Flip.
Now, some of you may be worried about the raw egg component. My own husband just finally came around to trying the nog this year after 15 years of marriage...the raw egg thing wasn't something he wanted to try until now. (He loved it so much he asked for seconds, BTW.) Despite the fact that Rocky Balboa showed us in "Rocky" that a drink of raw eggs was the breakfast of champions, most of us are skittish about it. But, I've never had an issue with it and I've been drinking it all my life. Even Alton Brown concurs with me that the alcohol is likely to kill off any bacteria, but you can also find pasteurized eggs and use those if you are concerned. Whatever you do, give it a try. You'll wonder how you could have bothered drinking that syrupy-sweet stuff they put on the grocery store shelves and have the nerve to call eggnog. Believe me...that stuff is not the real deal. Treat yourself to this easy-to-make holiday treat.
Dad's Classic Eggnog
A hand mixer is easiest to use for this recipe as you'll have multiple bowls to mix separately, but a stand mixer can also be used, particularly if making larger quantities. Mixing by hand may be too difficult to get the right consistency.
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6-8 ounces of dark rum (light rum can also be used)
1 cup granulated sugar
- Separate 8 eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another.
- Beat egg whites until stiff.
- Whip heavy cream in a large bowl.
- Mix whites with heavy cream.
- Beat the egg yolks.
- Mix yolks in with cream mixture.
- Mix sugar into the cream mixture.
- Mix whole milk into the cream mixture.
- Mix rum into the cream mixture.
- Refrigerate at least 1-2 hours, but overnight if possible.
- Use a whisk to stir up the liquid and foam together before ladling into serving cups. Serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top.
How long does it keep?
I'll admit that it never lasts more than a few days in my house - not because it goes bad, but because it "disappears." But, according to Alton Brown, "Don’t worry too much about safety. As long as your brew contains at least 20 percent alcohol and is stored below 40°F for at least a month, any microbial nasties that might haunt your innards should be nice and dead."
However you celebrate the season, I hope you'll try this treat. It carries special memories for me. I hope it becomes a tradition for you and your family. Happy Holidays and best in the New Year!
I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).
I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)
This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.
In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself.
With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix DMC-ZS15 compact camera.)
I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.
Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!