WASHINGTON — While commercially made eggnog is stocked in stores as early as mid-October, some families still prefer to celebrate the season with a homemade version.
However, eggnog prepared from scratch with raw eggs can present a risk for salmonellosis, food poisoning caused by the Salmonella bacterium.
Young children, expectant mothers, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends making homemade eggnog with a cooked custard base. Combine the eggs and half the milk called for in the recipe, and cook the mixture gently to 160 degrees. Other ingredients, such as sugar, can be added at the same time.
The cooked mixture should firmly coat a metal spoon, but don’t lick the spoon unless the custard is fully cooked.
After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and any other ingredients.
Rum, whiskey or other alcohol cannot be counted on to kill all the bacteria in eggnog made with contaminated eggs, and the FDA recommends preparing the custard base even when using pasteurized eggs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends refrigerating commercial egg-nog for no more than five days or freezing it for no more than six months. Homemade eggnog can be refrigerated for four days and should not be frozen.
The Virginia Egg Council notes on its website that eggnog is probably descended from posset, a drink of British origins that was made with eggs, milk and ale or wine, and served hot. When colonists brought the recipe to the New World, they began to prepare it with rum or bourbon.
Eggs were considered a comfort food with medicinal qualities, which might explain why a nutrient-rich egg beverage was prepared during the colder part of the year. It also may have been a special treat for the winter holidays, when more people traveled to see friends and family.
The egg council has a microwave eggnog recipe on its website at virginiaeggcouncil.org/documents/Recipes/EggNog.pdf, and the American Egg Board has a conventional recipe at incredibleegg.org/recipe/classic-cooked-eggnog, along with tips for achieving a velvety smooth texture.