Eggnog Make It Safely

During the holiday season, family and friends gather together to enjoy each others company.  Sharing food with others is particularly important and many dishes that we wouldn't normally serve during the year, or wouldn't serve with regularity, are made as way of sharing the holiday and expressing our love.

Eggs play an important part of holiday eating; custards, panna cotta, baked goods, and even special breakfasts such eggs Benedict and French toast. For many of us, the holidays would not be the same without the grand daddy egg dish of them all -- eggnog. 

Eggs Benedict photo courtesy Mark Miller

Eggnog dates back to England during the middle ages and is made with whipped eggs, milk, cream, and spices and can be kicked up a notch by the addition of rum or brandy. 

Eggnog and all of the other egg dishes mentioned above rely on raw, or partially cooked eggs. This raises the question as to the safety of these dishes. No one wants to get food poisoning during the holidays, or anytime else for that matter!

Salmonella Risk

About 1 in 20,000 commercial eggs sold in the U.S. contains salmonella. If you make eggnog from commercial eggs, your risk of getting salmonella isn't really that great. 

If you are a backyard chicken keeper, the news is even better. Commercial eggs are much more likely to contain salmonella than eggs those from your backyard flock because commercial chickens are raised in large flocks and rates of salmonella infection are proportional to the size of the flock. That means that your probably not going to get salmonella if you eat partially cooked or raw eggs from your own chickens.

I'm Free Range. I'm Clean

Playing It Safe

All this notwithstanding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with with weakened immune systems should not eat raw eggs.  If you are planning to serve eggnog to your guests this year here are a list of strategies to reduce or eliminate the risks:

Three Ways to Make Eggs Safer

Eggnog photo courtesy Nathan Brescia

  • Spike the Eggnog  -- Yup, add brandy or rum to your eggnog and the alcohol contained in it will help reduce (and possibly eliminate) salomonella in the eggnog.  In 2008, Professor Vincent Fischetti of Rockefeller University performed an experiment where he added a heavy dose of salmonella bacteria to an eggnog recipe containing 20% booze. After 24 hours he tested the eggnog and found traces of salmonella. In other words, in his experiment, the booze didn't completely eliminate the bacteria, but the the amount of salmonella he added to the eggnog was 1,000 times greater than what would be typically found in a contaminated egg. So you can't be completely sure that adding rum or brandy will do the trick, but the risk is really going to be very, very small.
  • Use Heat -- If you want to completely eliminate the risk, you need to heat the eggs to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will completely kill any salmonella bacteria that might be present in the egg. Of course, at that temperature a normal egg will become an omelet, so you'll need to employ a trick to make eggnog without creating a drink with pieces of scrambled egg in it. The trick is to whisk the egg with milk prior to heating. Use 1/4 cup of milk for each egg used in the recipe. The addition of the milk will prevent the egg from hardening. 
  • Pasteurize 'Em - -Another strategy is to buy eggs from the store that have already been pasteurized.  A company called Safest Choice does just that. They look just like other eggs sold at the grocery store and come in cartons. Check out there web site for a list of stores that sell these eggs.


Here's a link to a great recipe for making your own eggnog courtesy of Food TV Network superstar Alton Brown.
Alton Brown Eggnog Recipe

Posting sponsored by, makers of the BriteTap Poultry Waterer. The BriteTap chicken waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out. 


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