Aged Egg Nog
First, we must explain that this recipe is a secret. It was a secret when Mr. George P. Hunt pried it out of a man named Otis Terrell in Shanghai in 1926, and it was a secret when Mr. Terrell pried it out of Carl Seitz, a lumber executive from Virginia, some years before. We always take care to emphasize this to our guests when they come over to help make the egg nog--secrecy adds a subtle but thrilling flavor to the nog itself. Feel free to pass the recipe along, but always make it seem as if it is being pried out of you. Having apprenticed at the Terrell household, Mr. Hunt went on to host his own egg nog parties. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, every year for nearly 60 years, a select group of friends would gather to prepare the secret recipe, a recipe not just for egg nog but for conviviality itself. After the jump, step-by-step instructions for starting your own 60-year tradition. The Preparations 1. Select 8 friends of great and long-standing importance to you, such as “old China hands” from the Shanghai ex-pat community or people you served with in the Foreign Legion. 2. Invite them to come over on the Sunday evening following Thanksgiving. Each invitee (or pair of invitees if it’s, like, a couples thing) should bring two 375ml bottles of Jim Beam bourbon. (Mr. Hunt, known for his economy, recommended Old Crow.) If anyone brings their liquor in a plastic bottle, they must not be invited back. 3. Acquire the following materials:
* A large stoneware crock. We have not been able to find a local retailer who carries these. Red Wing Stoneware makes an nice crock in several sizes. If you are unwilling to order a $75 crock from Minnesota and you wish to stomp all over the poetry of Mr. Hunt’s egg nog legacy, you may use a stainless steel pot. Plastic containers are forbidden, however.
- A ceremonially giant wooden spoon (the guests will be invited to stir).
- Empty liquor bottles, washed, labels removed.
- Aluminum foil.
- A spread of tasty snacks, such as shrimp cocktail, hot pepper jelly and cream cheese on crackers, and a spiral-cut glazed ham to be served on small rolls with mustard.
4. For each batch of nog, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 1 dozen eggs.
- 2 cups of sugar.
- 1/2 pint of light cream. “Light cream” is no longer widely available; if it can’t be found, half-and-half is an acceptable subsitute.
- 1 quart whole milk.
- 1 quart bourbon (if you don’t trust your guests to remember to bring it).
- 4 ounces Myer’s dark rum.
- 4-8 ounces of V.S.O.P. cognac. Mr. Hunt was willing to pinch pennies on the bourbon, but was adamant that good cognac must be used.
- Pinch of salt.
- Nutmeg nuts.
The Party Procedure 1. Select several guests to separate the eggs. Choose wisely, for this is an honor. The yolks will go in the egg nog. As to the whites, it is customary to put them in the freezer and then, after about six months, into the trash. 2. Select several guests to dissolve the sugar in the yolks, stirring until creamy. Choose wisely, for this is an honor. Mr. Hunt used to tell us that blending the yolks and sugar was a tough job in China, where the eggs are much smaller. 3. Add cream, milk, bourbon, rum, cognac, and a pinch of salt. Mix. First-time guests will gasp appreciatively at the huge amount of booze. Assign a team of guest to stir gently for one hour, using the large ceremonial spoon. Choose wisely, for this is an honor. 5. Pour into the now-empty bourbon bottles. Strain before pouring if you're queasy. Wrap the bottles in aluminum foil. “Shiny side out,” Mr. Hunt always reminded us – that’s always the last thing he said whenever we talked about the egg nog: “shiny side out.” Wrap the foil so that it includes a nut of nutmeg for grating. The foil also keeps light out, although actually we have no idea if this really matters. Ribbon optional for gift bottles. Carefully instruct guests to refrigerate the nog for at least three weeks before enjoying, gently turning the bottle occasionally to mix. The traditional Shanghai method was to put the crock (covered) out in the garage and stir it once in a while for three weeks before bottling it. The San Francisco climate, however, is impractical for such a procedure. 6. Drink some this year and keep some refrigerated for next year - that way, you’ll always have some aged and some “young” to enjoy. With time, the egg nog achieves a mellow, golden hue and a complex, delicious flavor. The aged egg nog is perfectly safe -- it’s half alcohol. Chow’s Jason Horn talked to some food scientists about this.