Homemade Eggnog Made Safe

Mug of eggnog in moose mug
Mug of eggnog in moose mug on holiday decorated table – Photo: mrgeiger

Eggnog and holidays seem to go hand in hand.  While prepared eggnog is readily available at the supermarket, there is nothing like homemade eggnog.  Since eggs are a main ingredient of homemade eggnog, homemade eggnog has the potential to spoil holiday fun and cause Salmonella poisoning from the use of raw or undercooked eggs.  Salmonella bacteria is a potential risk even when refrigerated eggs with clean, uncracked shells are used.

How to convert a special family eggnog recipe into a safe recipe

Use a cooked egg base.  FoodSafety.gov  recommends 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.  Eggs must be cooked to 160 °F to kill bacteria that may be present such as Salmonella.   A cooked egg base or custard is made by heating half of the the milk and/or cream to almost boiling and ever so slowly adding the beaten egg yolks (or sometimes the whole egg) and sugar (or any sugar substitute).  Continue to cook and stir the mixture gently until an internal temperature of 160 °F is reached.  At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon and remain separated when a finger is drawn through it. Do not let the mixture go beyond 160 °F as above that temperature, the eggs are likely to curdle.  (If curdling occurs, put the mixture in a blend and blend until smooth.)   Place the mixture in a bowl of  ice water to stop the cooking action and prevent curdling or further curdling and then refrigerate.

Use pasteurized eggs yolks. Eggnog may be safely by using whole, liquid or pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes in place of raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs are found next to regular eggs at the store.  Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys any Salmonella that might be present without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. Even if you are using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.  When egg substitute products are used, some experimentation might be needed to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.

Use alcohol to inhibit bacterial growth.  While alcohol will inhibit bacterial growth, adding alcohol (in amounts recommended by most recipes) will not be sufficient to kill bacteria.  However, if one wants to use alcohol, Cooks Illustrated suggests that 1 1/2 ounces of 80 proof liquor per egg and three weeks of aging in the refrigerator is sufficient to kill bacteria when dairy is omitted until ready to serve. Such was conclusively proven by microbiologists at Rockefeller University where salmonella bacteria was purposely added  to eggnog and analyzed over a three-week period. By the three-week mark, the alcohol had rendered the eggnog completely sterile.

Substitute egg whites.  If a recipe calls for adding beaten egg whites to the hot egg/milk custard, use pasteurized egg whites.  While pasteurized egg whites do not whip to the same volume as raw egg, they are safe.  It has not been proven that raw egg whites are free of Salmonella bacteria; NOR has it been shown that when adding them to the hot milk/egg custard, the custard remains hot enough to kill any bacteria.  Another good substitute is whipping cream whipped to soft peaks added at the time of serving.

Here’s to a safe and worry-free holiday!  Follow these suggestions for your favorite eggnog recipe to ensure everyone can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worry of a foodborne illness.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Decorating Eggs with Natural Dyes

Six different colored Easter eggsDecorating eggs for Easter or other spring holidays is a tradition loved by many.  There are many commercial products available for decorating eggs.  Using natural dyes made from plant parts and other natural materials is a fun way to teach “the kids” a little science at the same time. More than likely, those eco-friendly dye ingredients are already in your pantry or refrigerator.  However, they may also exist in the landscape.* Using natural dyes allows for lots of experimenting!

Here’s a step-by-step guide to coloring eggs with natural dyes:

  1. Begin by hard boiling eggs, cooling, and refrigerating ahead of time.
  2. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add your dye ingredients for the egg color desired (listed below). Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  If it’s a vegetable or flower, a general guide is ½ to 1 cup of roughly chopped vegetable/petals per cup of water more or less; it’s not an exact science.  Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  For powdered spices, add 1-2 teaspoons of the spice and 1 teaspoon white vinegar to a cup of hot water and mix.
  3. Strain the dye to remove any food fragments.  Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of dye.  Let cool.  Colors should be refrigerated if not used right away after cooling.
  4. Wipe eggs with vinegar to remove the egg’s cuticle to help the color adhere to the shell.**
  5. Add the eggs to the strained dye and let soak for at least 30 minutes or until the desired depth of color is reached.  Refrigerating eggs overnight in the dye usually results in deeper coloring. When the desired color is achieved, remove the egg with tongs and pat it dry with paper towels.  Rubbing the egg with a little vegetable oil will add a polished sheen to the egg.
  6. Refrigerate the eggs until ready to use. Hard-boiled eggs, which have been quickly cooled and placed in the refrigerator in their shells, may be consumed up to 7 days as long as they have not been left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

There are many natural ingredients that can be used for coloring.  The color achieved by each ingredient is not always intuitive.

RED, PINK.  Beets, cranberries, raspberries, red onion skins, hibiscus flowers (dried tea), or pomegranate or cranberry juice (use juice straight), pickled beet juice (no need to add vinegar), red wine (use straight and no need to add vinegar).

YELLOW, ORANGE, GOLD.  Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed, ground cumin, ground turmeric, ground yellow mustard, saffron, curry powder, goldenrod, dandelion blossoms, daffodil blossoms. 

BLUE. PURPLE.  Red cabbage, blueberries, purple pansies, violets, grape juice (use straight), blue berry juice from canned blueberries (use straight).

GREEN.  Leaves from various plants are used to produce green colors.

Let your creativity continue with tie-dyed eggs and other exotic patterns using other materials and techniques.  Have fun egg-perimenting!  

*Use only untreated (no chemical pesticides or fertilizer treatments) plants and flowers from a lawn or landscape.

**The shell is protected by a thin layer of protein molecules called the cuticle. This cuticle has a neutral charge so not much is attracted to it. The vinegar contains acetic acid, which reacts to make the cuticle positively charged. The dye typically has a negative charge. The dye to adheres to the egg when the positive charge on the cuticle attracts the negative charge of the dye.

Dyeing Eggs the Natural Way.  University of Florida Extension Blogs.
Coloring Eggs with Natural Dyes.  UNL Extension.

Reviewed and updated, 5/2024, mg.

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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