Homemade eggnog is a tradition during the holiday season. But each year, this creamy drink causes cases of Salmonella food illness because of one of the main ingredients – raw or undercooked eggs.
Some people think that adding rum, whiskey, or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But, if contaminated unpasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, you can’t count on the alcohol in the drink to kill all of the bacteria.
So, by following simple safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick!
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Cooking the Egg Base
According to the FDA, start with a cooked egg base for eggnog. This is especially important if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women (non-alcoholic eggnog), older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
To make a cooked egg base:
- Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.)
- Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 °F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon (but please don’t lick the spoon if the custard is not fully cooked!).
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
Grocery Store Eggnog is Pasteurized
If you’re buying eggnog at the store, it has likely been pasteurized. That means the egg-and-milk combination has been heat-treated to kill most of the harmful microorganisms that could make you sick and reduce the ones that cause spoilage as well.
Classic Eggnog Recipe
When making homemade eggnog, the Egg Safety Center and FDA recommends using a cooked egg base or pasteurized egg product to avoid a damper on celebrations because of potential foodborne illness. Here’s an easy recipe for Classic Cooked Eggnog:
Ingredients for 12 servings (6 cups):
- 6 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 4 cups whole milk – divided into 2 cups each
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 12 cinnamon stick for garnish
- BEAT eggs, sugar and salt in large heavy saucepan until blended. STIR IN 2 cups milk.
- COOK over low heat, stirring constantly but gently, until mixture is just thick enough to just coat a metal spoon with a thin film and temperature reaches 160°F, about 15 minutes. Do not allow to boil. REMOVE from heat immediately.
- STIR IN remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. REFRIGERATE, covered, until thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight.
December is National Eggnog Month. By following simple safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick!