It's getting to be that magical time of year when thoughts turn to egg nog. In recent years, I've seen a lot of discussion regarding proper egg nog making technique. To be specific, I'm talking about how long to let egg nog sit in the refrigerator before drinking it.
Due to the inclusion of raw eggs in many an egg nog recipe, quite a few people think it's best to consume it the same day that you make it. It turns out that you can make your egg nog several weeks in advance, and it tastes better than if you made it the same day.
While some may cringe at the thought of leaving what seems to be potential salmonella stew in the refrigerator for that long, I assure you that you needn't fret. Over time, the alcohol kills off any potential bacterial infestation, to the point that egg nog with enough alcohol in it has a more or less indefinite shelf life as long as it stays in the refrigerator.
Trust me. My standard egg nog recipe is cribbed from a microbiologist, and she aged it for several weeks in the fridge. I do the same now whether I'm making it or (my preference) coquito, Puerto Rican coconut egg nog.
But how long should you leave it to rest? There are quite a few people who proudly trumpet that they age their egg nog for an entire year before they consume it. Which got me wondering: Is it worth letting your egg nog hibernate for that long?
There's only one way to find out. Late last year, I made some classic egg nog, then forgot to take it to the last Christmas party of the year. I figured I'd try aging it until this time of year. Then, it took up precious space in the back of my refrigerator, well chilled until just this past week. I was a little nervous about giving a try.
It got the sniff test first. Yup, still smells like egg nog.
As I poured, I noticed that the mixture had separated a little bit, with a layer of whipped cream at the top. I tried a fingerful and found it sweet and delicious. I also found that the fat globules just floated on top of the egg nog instead of mixing in. After a spin in my trusty blender, everything was homogenous once more.
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I'll admit I was a little nervous about giving the aged nog a taste. Turns out, it weathered the stay in the fridge just fine. At least, from what I can tell so far. However, there wasn't any great flavor benefit from leaving everything together for all that time.
If anything, it tasted a little on the flat side compared to a nog that had been sitting in the fridge for only a month or so. I'm going to guess that the volatile flavors in nutmeg had long since dissipated. I could add more nutmeg, but what's the point of leaving it in the fridge that long if I just have to refresh the recipe later anyway?
So, go ahead and make your egg nog right now for your upcoming holiday parties. Any supply you have will improve in the weeks to come, and keep through the entire holiday season. But if you still have some after New Year's, there's not much reason to keep it for your 2015 holiday parties.