After Thanksgiving was over and our bellies were sufficiently full of turkey and cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, pie and wine, we settled in Saturday evening for a quiet night at home. The only cooking we did that night was homemade turkey stock, with enough bones to fill both our stockpots. As the stock bubbled away on the stove, I thought of decorating for Christmas – usually I’m eager to put up the tree and lights Thanksgiving weekend – but thought I’d wait a week and get the house organized first.
We have an electric fireplace in our condo that doesn’t even really make an attempt at looking very authentic, but it’s cozy nonetheless. But I do miss a real fireplace, in spite of the mess it creates. Nothing says “home for the holidays” quite like a crackling fire, especially if the fireplace has a nice hearth for sitting on.
My childhood home in South Carolina was heated by a black, wood-burning stove, and in spite of the dust and ash it created in the winter, it was one of my favorite features of the house. The bedrooms were chilly in the winter, but the living room and kitchen stayed nice and toasty. One winter, when my dad was working in another state, we woke up to a chimney fire, although at the time, I didn’t know enough to be scared, only that our house got to be the center of attention in the neighborhood that night when the fire trucks arrived. I even wrote a poem about that fireplace in one of my college writing classes, and although I don’t write poetry anymore, I really enjoyed the class at the time. The poem may be long gone, though, or packed away on an outdated floppy disk somewhere.
I was the type of kid who didn’t like being away from home for very long, or very far away from my mom. A week of daily Bible camp in the summer, which meant spending half the day, every day for a week, away from home, was torture. Starting kindergarten and having to spend all day with strangers in a school that smelled weird – like paper mache and that chemical they use to clean vomit out of the carpets – was completely heart wrenching to me. It was the year I lost a friend on the playground for saying her Cabbage Patch doll had a nose like a pig, got my first crush on a boy named Marcus Painter, and had my waist-length hair chopped short all over my head when my sister and I got lice from an epidemic at school. My sister, having straight hair, was able to keep her hair, but I, with all my curls that were too difficult to clean, came out of it like a shorn sheep. I was sure everyone in my class knew why I’d gotten such a drastic haircut.
With the holiday season, comes one of my favorite things – Eggnog. I never understood people who say it’s too rich – I could drink a whole glass and love every creamy, spiced drop. This year, though, I thought I’d try making my own for the first time, and I loved how it turned out. A mixture of egg yolks, milk with a splash of cream, pumpkin, spices and a little sugar, simmered gently on the stove, made a creamy and flavorful concoction that was even more delicious with the addition of vanilla and bourbon. I think Jamie’s glass contained a much higher ratio of bourbon to eggnog, but I liked mine with just a little hint of the bourbon.
We sipped our homemade eggnog warm that Saturday night, but I chilled a little to taste later, and it was as wonderful chilled as it was warm. I wish I had some more of that eggnog today while we put up the decorations and listen to Christmas music. I start to feel like a kid again, this time of year, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than home...
Pumpkin Pie Eggnog
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- 3 cups 2% or whole milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Small pinch of salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
In a small saucepan, combine the pumpkin, milk, cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium low heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
When the pumpkin mixture starts to bubble around the edges, slowly pour ½ cup of the hot liquid into the egg yolk/sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for 4-5 minutes until thick and creamy. Stir in the vanilla and bourbon.
Serve hot with a cinnamon stick, or refrigerate for several hours and serve chilled.
Yields 4 servings.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen