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Watching eggnog being made was fun; drinking it was not

By Jeff Wilkin
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The holiday season comes with its share of drink recipes.

Hot chocolate always seems to taste better when there’s snow on the ground.

And some people fill their punch bowls as Christmas and New Year’s approach.

Sales of nutmeg and cinnamon must be at all-year highs in December.

During my younger days in Rochester, eggnog was the traditional yuletide drink. My father, the late Harold J. Wilkin Jr., made eggnog every year during the 1960s and into the 1970s.

As kids, the idea appealed to us. We’d gather in the kitchen and watch as Dad separated egg whites and yolks and mixed the yolks with cream, sugar, nutmeg, a little milk and a couple splashes of vanilla. They all went into the giant mixing machine and yellow bowl placed on the kitchen table.

My brother and sister and I loved watching the eggnog take shape. For one thing, it was something we could do as a family, although I don’t remember my mother, the late Kathleen Kane Wilkin, as an active participant. She must have thought she spent enough time in the kitchen, and skipped my father’s culinary lesson.

Once the eggnog was a light yellow, the egg whites received their beatings.

And they became a topping for Dad’s Christmas libation. I know some people insist a true eggnog must contain bourbon or brandy, but my father used a booze-free formula.

Because eggnog came but once a year, we were all obligated to drink a small glass. That’s where the problem came in; I don’t think any of the family’s junior members really liked drinking eggnog all that much. For me, I know it was the raw eggs. As a 12-year-old, I knew eggs worked best in fried egg sandwiches. Drinking a concoction that contained uncooked eggs just didn’t seem all that appetizing to me.

It was great fun watching the process, but I think my father got stuck drinking most of the eggnog. Maybe he added a dash of bourbon to his glass — that might have been why he never complained about the kids skipping out on the sipping.

As we entered high school and college, eggnog became less important for us.

If we were putting up the Christmas tree, glasses of grape juice, orange Crush and Wink soda — the latter the late and lamented grapefruit-flavored soft drink from Canada Dry — were our favorite cold ones.

But I’ll see the store-packaged eggnogs for weeks to come, and I will never go that way. If you’re going to drink eggnog at all, it must be fresh, in addition to being frigid and frothy.

I was in a Stuyvesant Plaza food store Sunday night, picking up a half-gallon bottle of Battenkill Creamery’s excellent chocolate milk and one of the store clerks asked me, “Have you tried their eggnog yet?”

I told the guy no, and that I had no plans for an investment in a non-homemade egg beverage.

I think my father would have liked that.

“In & Out of the Kitchen,” a wide-ranging column about cooking, eating and buying food, is written by Gazette staffers. You can reach us at features@dailygazette.net.

 
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