Since colonial times, eggnog has been a favorite part of the holidays for many Americans. George Washington is said to have had his own secret recipe for the treat. However, consumers need to keep in mind that salmonella is a concern when consuming homemade eggnog.
Eggnog made with raw or partially cooked eggs may be unsafe. In order to destroy salmonella bacteria, the egg mixture must be heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Most commercially sold eggnog is pasteurized by heating to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or above, but it is smart to check the label to be sure.
If consumers prefer to make their own eggnog, any eggnog recipe can be made safe by combining the eggs and half of the milk indicated in the recipe and cooking this mixture gently to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The mixture must be stirred constantly during this process to prevent lumps from forming and to prevent scorching.
Other ingredients, such as sugar, may be added during this step. A cooking thermometer should be used to assure that the mixture reaches the proper temperature. The end of the thermometer should be submerged in the liquid and not touching the side or bottom of the pan. When the mixture reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, it will coat a metal spoon. At this point, the mixture may be removed from the heat and chilled. The rest of the milk and remaining ingredients may be added just before serving.
Pasteurized eggs may be substituted for raw eggs in an eggnog recipe. Pasteurized eggs have already been heated to destroy salmonella bacteria. They are available in some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost than raw eggs. However, both the FDA and the USDA recommend cooking the egg mixture for optimal safety, even if using pasteurized eggs.
Consumers can learn more about the preparation and storage of eggnog by visiting www.fsis.usda.gov or calling the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-674-6854.