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Eggnog gets the nod for holidays

The most common spices sprinkled on eggnog are cinnamon and nutmeg.

At the grocery store you can buy Lactaid eggnog, Southern Comfort eggnog, almond milk eggnog, and of course, no-frills, give-it-to-me-straight, don't-pay-attention-to-the-calories eggnog.

Thanks to the early cold, eggnog consumption is up.

Scott Boll, general manager of Cass Clay Creamery in Fargo, says they normally sell 120,000 cartons of the holiday treat in the average year. But this year, local consumption is up 40 percent.

Sales are spurred by cold and snow, and this year's early chill supercharged the Santaland spirit that encourages downing the spiced mix of milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs — and for those who like a little kick — brandy, rum or bourbon.

"The sales really, really have been strong this year," Boll said.

Cass-Clay gets shipments of eggnog four times a week from a Minnesota Kemps plant, Boll said. Production started in October.

Rachel Kyllo, senior vice president for growth and innovation for Kemps, and an unabashed eggnog fan, said Kemps' sales of eggnog are up 19 percent over last year. The firm makes four kinds of eggnog, including pumpkin eggnog, golden and light eggnogs, and holly nog, which is lower in fat and contains less egg yolk.

In 2017, more than 17.5 million gallons of eggnog were sold in the U.S., which is equivalent to 5.6 billion servings, Kyllo said. This year, eggnog sales are up 5.5 percent overall nationally compared to last year, she said.

Props to posset

Eggnog is believed to have its origin as "posset" in medieval Britain. Posset is a drink made of hot milk, curdled with ale, wine or other alcoholic liquors such as sherry, often flavored with spices or sweetened. Later on, monks were believed to have added whipped eggs and figs.

When the colonists arrived in the American colonies, they brought their recipes and taste for posset along.

American families had their own farms to get milk and eggs, but sherry and madeira were not easy to come by. Those liquors were replaced with less expensive and more widely available whiskey and rum.

The "nog" part of the word eggnog is believed to have come from noggins, wooden mugs once used to serve drinks like posset. It may have also been a reference to rum mixed with water, called grog in colonial times. The egg and grog mixture may have been shortened to eggnog.

Eggnog variants are enjoyed elsewhere, too. In Mexico, there is a vanilla-flavored beverage known as rompope. In Puerto Rico, you can have coquito, which uses coconut milk. In Peru, a brandy called pisco is added.

By the 19th century, eggnog had become associated with the holiday season, a tradition that continues.

Presidential nog

Several publications have shared George Washington's recipe for Christmas eggnog.

The first president, like other Americans of his time, enjoyed his alcohol, so this may be one of those times that you shop with a cart at your favorite liquor store.

As the folks at the Old Farmer's Almanac say, "It will knock your socks off!"

From the Mount Vernon plantation kitchen records:

Christmas eggnog

One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry.

Mix liquor first. Then, separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs. (This ingredient was forgotten in the original recipe, but cooks have estimated a dozen eggs would do the trick).

Add sugar to beaten yolks; mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days.

Taste frequently.

Hangover-free nog

There may also be those among you who may not feel the need to punish your liver. Or, you might want something homemade that the kids can drink without having Child Protection Services show up at your door. Here is a non-alcoholic recipe offered by The Spruce Eats:

Non-alcoholic eggnog

Preparation time for this eggnog is 5 minutes, with about 60 minutes spent cooking.

The recipe yields 12 to 16 servings.

Ingredients include 6 large eggs, 2 egg yolks, one-half cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons, one-quarter teaspoon salt; 4 cups whole milk, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, one-half teaspoon grated nutmeg, one-quarter cup heavy cream (whipped to soft peaks). Additional grated nutmeg for a garnish.

Combine eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-or 4-quart pan, whisking until well-combined.

Continue whisking while pouring milk in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated.

Turn on the stove burner to lowest possible heat setting.

Place pan on burner and stir mixture continuously until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160 degrees and the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be patient: This should take about 45 to 60 minutes.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove any accidentally cooked small bits of egg.

Add vanilla extract and nutmeg, stirring to combine.

Pour into a glass pitcher, decanter, or container and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate this egg custard mixture to chill at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before finishing.

When ready to serve, pour heavy cream into a bowl and whip until it forms soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into cold custard mixture until combined.

Serve eggnog in chilled cups or glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Eggnog fast facts

• December is National Eggnog month.

• Dec. 24 is National Eggnog Day.

• The most common spices sprinkled on eggnog are cinnamon and nutmeg.

• The Daily Meal estimates that an 8-ounce cup of homemade eggnog has 344 calories.