“AN Alabama eggnog is one that caresses the palate with velvety goodness, and then once it is within the stomach, suddenly becomes the counterpart of a kicking mule. It is a fluffy, saffron colored beverage, delicate in fragrances, daintily blended, and pungently persuasive.”
My Festivus party was last weekend and I decided to try an 1940s recipe for “Alabama Eggnog.” It comes from The Food of a Younger Land, edited by Mark Kurlansky. It’s a collection of essays written by the WPA’s Federal Writer’s Project that were compiled with the intention of creating a compendium of regional American foods. It was to be titled “America Eats,” but with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the start of WWII, the project was never completed.
Kurlansky has selected what he feels are the most interesting and most important essays. The one about the Southern style eggnog caught my eye. It was believed to have evolved in the antebellum south, in the “big houses,” where it was a slave who gathered “…Hundred of eggs… to be blended with choice, well-aged whiskeys that the planters had ordered from distant distilleries.”
It was still being made at lavish parties in the Depression era, despite the fact that prohibition was enforced in parts of Alabama.
The recipe, as told by an “aged Negro,” goes like this:
Take a dozen eggs, and beat the yellows and the whites separately, both very light. Put half the sugar in the whites, and half in the yellows. When the yellows are beaten together very light, add the whiskey, two tablespoonfuls to an egg. The fold in the beaten whites, and at last fold in one pint whipped cream, adding more whiskey to taste. This proportion can be used to make any amount of egg nog.
From the WPA Writer’s Project America Eats manuscript, c. 1940;
as it appears in The Food of a Younger Land edited by Mark Kurlansky
12 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whiskey
1 pint cream
Separate egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls; add half the sugar to each bowl. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; add to a large punch bowl. Next, beat egg yolks until very light in color. Fold together egg whites and yolks. Add whiskey. Whip cream until soft peaks form, fold into egg mixture. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh grated nutmeg.
At my party, an excited crowd gathered as I mixed the nog. I tasted the frothy egg mixture after added the recommended amount of whiskey…and then proceeded to double it, adding more whiskey 1/2 cup at a time, tasting after each addition. I ended up adding a full three cups of whiskey before it tasted just right.
“More cream???” Someone exclaimed as I began to fold in snowy peaks of whipped cream. My guests were intimidated by the froth. ”But how do you drink it??”
But drinking it wasn’t a problem; despite its fluff, it was easy to serve and drink. It was like drinking marshmallow booze.
“Eggnog! Eggnog is the best!” cheered Roommate Jeff. The Alabama eggnog was drunk up long before the party’s end.