Eggnog and how it relates to pirates

Food date: 2016.339

Noggin. Noggin. Noggin. I had a lot of fun saying that word while researching the history of eggnog. As it turns out, there is debate among the experts on the origin of eggnog. One thing is for certain, there are a lot of fun words associated with it, such as caudle, posset, grog, bumbo, hooch and noggin. Despite the amusing words, eggnog brings to mind cold weather, cozy evenings by the tree, and reflections of a year closing with another soon beginning. And of course yummy goodness.

As for eggnog’s historical journey, many food historians agree that eggnog falls in the category of a posset, a Medieval hot spiced mixture of curdled milk and wine or ale with eggs added later. A caudle was an earlier version of the posset, drunk in early 14th century England. Some thought the original was related to nog, a strong brewed beer from East Anglia (old eastern England).

Another thought is the “nog” in eggnog is from the Middle English word, “noggin.” A noggin is a small wooden mug used for alcohol beverages. Others believe eggnog is named for egg and grog, which was mixture of rum and water given to sailors in the Royal Navy during the 1700s.

The original story varies somewhat, but it appears eggnog was enjoyed all year around by the wealthy in England, since the rich had more access to milk and eggs. It became popular across the Atlantic where we colonialists had plenty of farms, thus more abundance of milk and eggs. Some areas eventually replaced rum with the more accessible bourbon.

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Recipe from Alton Brown: Eggnog

FFF’s (Food Fun Facts):

  • One definition of a posset was hot milk and hooch (among its other definitions, a strong alcohol often illicitly made). It seemed a bit crude, but it was another fun word to associate with eggnog.
  • A caudle often included bread, so I am not sure how liquid-y this drink could have been. It mainly had medicinal uses. For instance, it was given to women in childbirth.
  • As for those pirates, it sounds like they did not like grog, not only in likelihood due to its association with the English Royal Navy, but apparently also because of its flavor. Pirates preferred bumbo, which added sugar and nutmeg to the water-rum mixture of grog. Sounds a little better, no?
  • Eggnog is essentially a stirred custard similar to ice cream since it includes milk and eggs, but traditional eggnog would likely not freeze due to the alcohol.
  • Many eggnog enthusiasts recommend aged eggnog, which is stored in the refrigerator for six to twelve months.

As the year closes and perhaps with a nog of eggnog in your hand, I wish you many blessings during this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

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