Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week = Eggnog & Wassail
The holiday season is here... bringing with it good cheer!
What brings you good cheer this time of year? Is it the upbeat music, bright decorative lights, the thrill of battling shopping mobs for the best deals, or is it just being with family and friends?
Among all the wonderful things that bring warmth to our hearts this season, there is a culinary concoction that can bring warmth to the rest of the body and warm the spirit. EGGNOG! Eggnog has a long tradition of bringing friends together, and it plays a historical role in celebrating the season. In England during the 1800's, it was tradition for young men to go around to their friends and family on New Year's Day and visit. At each house, they would receive a cup of nog. It was expected that during this time of year you would have made a large batch to have ready for guests. Eggnog would be served warm (and would help warm the guest as well) and make each consecutive visit a little merrier.
Recipes for a wine punch containing wine and milk date back to the 1600's. The addition of rum or "grog" instead of wine was called egg and grog, shortened later to egg n grog, and eventually eggnog. It is said that even George Washington had his own recipe for eggnog containing not only rum but whiskey, rum, and sherry. The concoctions were reported to be quite strong.
The spices and richness of eggnog embody the season, but too much richness can make for an unpleasant stomach. There is a big difference between eggnog made from scratch and one out of the cooler section at the grocery store. I would encourage you to try this recipe and make a large batch for visiting family and friends this season.
Chef Essig's Homemade Eggnog
- 1 quart Milk
- 5 each Whole Cloves
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 12 each Egg Yolks
- 1.5 cup Sugar
- 4 cups Heavy Cream
- 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 6 each Egg whites
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 2.5 cup Rum (Optional)
- Combine the milk, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer in a saucepot.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy.
- While whisking vigorously, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Return the mixture to a sauce pot and heat while stirring constantly until mixture thickens into a light custard.
- Turn off heat and strain out cloves. Pour into a clean container and add heavy cream, nutmeg, and vanilla extract.
- Whisk egg whites to soft peaks. Add a little additional sugar and continue to whisk to stiff peaks. Fold this into the warm custard.
- Add rum if desired and enjoy warm or cold.
As you can see, this mixture is very rich... so enjoy it in small quantities!
Beverage traditions during the holiday season
One of the oldest traditions was that of Wassailing. This dates back to medieval times when peasants would visit their lord of the land bringing the gift of song in exchange for food and drink. They were not seen as beggars but as neighbors wishing the lord of their land good will in exchange for some holiday food and spirits. Wassail is a cider beverage fortified with spirits (usually wine) and spices.
In areas of England, apple farmers would celebrate the time of year by wassailing the trees. This included splashing the trees with wassail, making loud noises, and drinking until all were merry. This was said to awaken the trees, dispel evil spirits from the orchard, ensure a good harvest for the next year, and it was probably just a good time to be had by all.
A rhyme from that time goes: "Apple tree, apple tree, we all come to wassail thee, Bear this year and next year to bloom and to blow, Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sack fills, Hip, Hip, Hip, hurrah, Holler biys, holler hurrah."
I'll drink to that
To "propose a toast" is linking our relationship of drinks to friends and relations. The term toast comes from the ancient ritual of floating a piece of bread on top of a shared cup of wine or spirit. The cup would passed around to all guests and lastly to the host. The host would then be expected to finish what was left in the cup and eat the bread giving thanks to the host's chosen deity.
So as you raise your glass this season, whether it is filled with spirits or not, give thanks for family, friends, and those around you that bring you good cheer.
Happy Dining from Executive Chef Essig!
Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA
(Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator)
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