Today’s words come to us from America’s first President, George Washington. I grew up just a stone’s throw from Mount Vernon, George’s home and estate. Although, when I was 10, I never appreciated that I was riding my bike in his backyard. His actual backyard.
George and Martha Washington were known for lavish entertaining at Mount Vernon, especially during Christmas. A typical holiday party would include one of Martha’s famous Great Cakes (but let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure Martha herself didn’t spend any time in the kitchen). But it was a pretty great cake — 40 eggs, 4 pounds of butter, 4 pounds of powdered sugar, 5 pounds of fruit, and a half pint of wine and brandy thrown in for good measure. Essentially, this turns out to be a 12-pound frosted fruitcake with a shelf life of six months.
And what did they serve to wash down that Great Cake? Eggnog. Lots of Eggnog. Normally, George was partial to Madeira (something they ordered by the barrel at Mount Vernon), but during the holidays, George was a huge fan of the nog. This is his recipe, in his own words.
That’s a doozy of a nog! I’m guessing there was no shortage of holiday cheer at Mount Vernon. Btw, Mount Vernon had its own distillery (the largest in America at the time), so there was plenty of whiskey to go around. George reportedly gave each of his servants and slaves a gallon of whiskey, and four days off for the holidays. Unless you worked in the kitchens. Then you were required to make great cakes and nog.
Notice anything about that recipe? George doesn’t mention how many eggs to use . . . (turns out it’s a full dozen).
I found a few adaptations of George’s eggnog recipe. This one seems pretty easy to follow, should you be inclined to whip up a batch of holiday cheer.
- 2 cups brandy
- 1 cup rye whiskey
- 1 cup Jamaican rum
- 1/2 cup sherry
- 12 eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup white sugar (you can measure out a dozen tablespoons if you want to)
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 quart heavy cream
- Freshly grated ground nutmeg, for garnish (I think George would be OK with this)
Mix liquors first in a separate container. Separate yolks and whites into two large mixing bowls. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns a light yellow. Add liquors slowly to egg yolk mixture, continuing to beat (mixture will turn brown) until well incorporated. Add milk and cream simultaneously, slowly beating the mixture. Set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold slowly into the alcohol mixture. Add nutmeg, and stir well to incorporate. Cover mixture in an airtight container. Allow eggnog to cure undisturbed for several days in the refrigerator. The mixture will separate as it cures. This is OK. Just be sure to re-incorporate mixture before serving cold.
Oh, and taste frequently!
Quote from American Christmases: Firsthand Accounts of Holiday Happenings from Early Days to Modern times.
Recipe adapted from Wanderlust and Lipstick.