Real Egg Nog has Eggs

My muse of the day, an Open Diary friend I’ll refer to as “X,” suggested that I write an entry about egg nog, so I’ve spent the last half hour (which is about all the research a blog entry should require), reading recipes on the net. I’m now extremely thirsty, and mentally tallying the ingredients in my kitchen, wondering if I have any decent rum, but that’s really not the point.

The cheery red and green quart-cartons in the dairy section may be the most familiar version of egg nog, but it’s really been around forever, and most cultures have some version of this drink, which is really a heavily laced liquid custard. It’s also loosely related to syllabub, which is a milk punch mentioned in a lot of Victorian novels, but which, according to the oldest recipes I found online, did not originally include eggs.

Unlike the egg cream, which is a fountain drink made by shooting seltzer into heavy cream mixed with flavored syrup, real egg nog has eggs in it. In fact, regional variations aside, the basic recipe is pretty simple: egg yolks, sugar, milk, and the alcohol of your choice, with seasonings to taste. Americans tend to use brandy,and season with nutmeg, but I’ve developed a passion for the Mexican version, called Rompope, which uses rum and cinnamon. My philosophy is, “Anything that has rum and cinnamon in it can’t be all bad.” Not surprisingly, when I make hot chocolate on winter evenings, I tend to lace it with rum and cinnamon as well, but that’s another entry.

In my reading, I learned that the Puerto Rican egg-nog variant includes coconut milk, which is probably really tasty, but, I’m a purist, and so I offer this recipe, for Rompope, and urge everyone to try it. It’s much better than the stuff in the dairy section, which generally doesn’t have real milk or real nutmeg, let alone real eggs, or real rum.

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Rompope is strong, sweet and meant to be sipped, so small glasses are in order. Refrigerated, it will keep indefinitely.
1 quart whole milk
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal (optional, see Note)
12 egg yolks
2 cups light rum, or brandy
Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon stick (and ground almonds, if you are using them) in a large saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature.
Beat the egg yolks until thick and lemony. Remove the cinnamon stick from the milk mixture, and gradually whisk the egg yolks into the milk mixture. Return to low heat and, stirring constantly, cook until mixture coats a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Add the rum or brandy to the mixture, stir well. Transfer to a container and and cover tightly. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days before serving. Makes 1-1/2 quarts.

Note: While not strictly traditional, many Mexican cooks believe ground almonds improve the texture and lend a delicate flavor to Rompope. I’ve had it both with and without the almonds. It’s great either way.

Below, there’s a more traditional version, offered in Spanish, untranslated. (Who said blogging wasn’t educational.)
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