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George Washington's Egg Nog

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Lauren Braun Costello
About the author: Lauren Braun Costello
The competent cook; food stylist; cooking instructor; graduate French Culinary Institute. To die for dish? Maple glazed bacon wrapped roast turkey. Yep, bacon wrapped.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think George Washington would be my authority on the art of egg nog. He was probably our nation's greatest leader and an unparalleled general. But a master of curing eggs and cream with rye whiskey I did not expect. Sure enough, my husband came across our first president's alleged recipe several years ago, and no nog has rivaled it since. The result is a frothy, sweet concoction sure to recall special holiday memories (unless, of course, you drink too much of it, in which case you may not remember much at all).

Is This for Real?
Believe it or not, the recipe below is at the very least derivative of what George Washington served this time of year to guests at his home at Mount Vernon. A simple recipe was found among his kitchen papers there. Ingredients were listed, as were quantities in some cases. The most notable exception was for eggs. All that was noted in his original recipe is that eggs must be used; however, no precise amount was given.

The fact is, any method of curing eggs and cream with alcohol will produce egg nog. What is most unique and subsequently appealing about George Washington's egg nog is that the recipe calls for ingredients germane to Colonial America. For example, he specifically lists Jamaica rum and rye whiskey. American colonists craved the tropical flavors distilled from the cane fields in Jamaica, Barbados, and other Caribbean islands. Jamaica rum would have been available in any colonial ale house worth its casks.

Rye whiskey was also typical of the time, especially in the fertile Mid-Atlantic States. Rye was the grain of choice for America's first distillers, and is heartier and spicier than its popular modern foil, Kentucky Bourbon. Rye whiskey fueled the Continental Army against the Redcoats and even ignited a rebellion against Washington's government in 1794. So popular was rye at the time that George Washington himself built one of the largest distilleries of the eighteenth century at Mount Vernon. It was specifically for the production of rye, the sale of which resulted in $7,500 profit in 1798 (a president's ransom, in those days). In this respect, Washington's egg nog is a fine example of artisanal craftsmanship.
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Method to the Madness
In this day and age, we are not used to mixing up our favorite cocktails one week in advance. But with home made egg nog you will have to--at least five days ahead of time for it to cure. This not only maximizes taste and texture, but also ensures that the alcohol does in fact cure the raw eggs (an important health consideration). A foamy egg nog that George Washington would be proud of takes more than time. It requires a simple yet important methodology to make sure your mixture brews just right.

Making egg nog is about curing and tempering separated eggs and milk in a specific order. The first technique to use is to blanchir your egg yolks--beating egg yolks with sugar until they turn to a creamy, light yellow paste. The other technique essential to this recipe is the folding of egg whites into the tempered egg yolks, milk and cream. The egg whites should be beaten to stiff peaks, and then folded into the creamy mixture making a "figure 8" motion with a spatula. In a short while, the whites will be fully incorporated into the drink. Folding in the egg whites adds a fluffy texture that will keep your egg nog from being too heavy.

The recipe below is based on George Washington's simple instructions. I've thrown in a bit of fresh nutmeg and cinnamon, which would have been quite a luxury in the colonial era.

Just in Case
If for some reason, you do not devour all this delicious egg nog, I recommend throwing it into an ice cream maker to create a festive and seasonal ice cream treat. There is nothing better for an icy Christmastime treat than egg nog ice cream and chocolate cake.

Cheers and good tidings to all!

Modern Version of George Washington's Egg Nog

Modern Version of George Washington's Egg Nog

Made with brandy, rye whiskey, dark Jamaica rum, cream sherry, extra large eggs, large eggs, sugar, milk, heavy cream

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       We are going to try this recipe and will let you know what it taste like to us. We are looking forward to a GOOD TIME!

    Comment posted by Sara (unstablegramy)

       This eggnog was an huge hit last Xmas. Beware very strong stuff.

    Comment posted by joel potter

       The very BEST!! Strong, but very, very good!

    Comment posted by Jean

       Having lived now in East Anglia for nine years and in Virginia and Maryland for twenty some, I think this recipe looks authentic for the period and place. What makes it extra special for me is the well-analysed presentation of the recipe which helps you understand how and wy the recipe works. I have made eggnog before and never felt that it really came off--now I understand that the curing is an essential elements. I live in a house going on five hundred years old and find that recipes old recipes, candles, fires and objects with the patina of time and use harmonize with the surroundings. But I think that the place to make this recipe is in a very old house on the North Norfolk coast-where Nelson honed his sailing and drinking skills-- among the barnyard chickens, reeds, Pink-Foot Geese and long walks with dogs in the winds along the shingle beaches.

    Comment posted by patricia


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