Monday, December 21, 2009

Real, Raw Eggnog

I can picture myself stricken with consumption, washed up on the pillows, pale but radiant with fever--can picture myself handed a cool, tall glass of eggnog. My pale thin fingers slip on the glass, but yet I raise it to my lips, and sip, eyes lidded with weakness. And as that silken custard touches my tongue, the luster returns to my hair and the pink blooms again in my fingertips. "Lissie," I say, "lace up my stays. I'm going to the Christmas ball tonight."

This is homemade eggnog, an unpasteurized festival of nutmeg-scented rum-rich cream. I wish I could drink nothing but eggnog from snowy dawn to early dusk, and all the long night through. But if I did, my skin would be so creamy, my eyes so bright and dewey, my hair so lush and wavy, that I'd have to dance with every man at the Christmas ball, and wear out my shoes with dancing. And I like my shoes.

Also the hens and gentle cows can barely keep up with me as it is.

This will make you a quart of eggnog. Since the eggs and milk are raw, I would not recommend making it with anything but eggs from the healthiest chickens. The golden yolks of those eggs will give it a creamy yellow hue and a richer, deeper flavor. If you only have access to storebought milk and eggs, make a cooked eggnog, or use lots of liquor to kill off bad bacteria. And the good bacteria in raw milk from healthy cows will actually kill off bad bacteria, should anything clinging to the shell of the egg find a way into the nog.

If you decide to drink eggnog daily, I would recommend using just six egg yolks instead of four whole eggs. Raw egg whites have a substance that causes biotin deficiency in the long term.

Raw Eggnog

Beat four eggs thoroughly. Add three tablespoons of maple syrup and a tiny pinch of salt and beat well.

Add some liquor--rum, brandy, bourbon--according to your taste. A few tablespoons will give you some flavor; a cup or more will give you a heady nog. Beat well.

Add three cups very rich raw milk, beat well. Grate nutmeg over it to taste. Chill for a few hours to meld the flavors.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Proper Weather

This is as it should be.

The hens are fluffy enough.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Transcontinental Cornbread (Crumbfree)

I always seat myself on the south side of airplanes. I like the sunshine on my lap. The clouds, too. Seen from above, their textures are so alien, surreal. They look like the puckering foam on top of bubbling jam pots. I know the bellies of the fatter clouds are indeed flatter from their close contact with the ground, but I'm never quite sure if these thin upper clouds actually have rougher tops than bottoms, or just look like it. From above, the low-angled sunlight highlights their texture so much that they jump into vivid dimensionality--and all we see from the earth is a muted greyness. I suppose clouds will always be smoother where the wind is faster and straighter. I guess that means the middles of thunderheads are all lined up straight, shooting straight up the middle like mushroom stalks or umbrella handles.

I'm heading home again, this time for my first Christmas home in four years. I've been home a lot lately, visiting Grandma, who dropped out of the nursing home to pursue the next life at her leisure. She's beautifully ensconced in a nook in my aunt and uncle's gracious old Lancaster farmhouse. There are cornfields and horses to see, and dry beef gravy, sauerkraut and pork, and molasses-tinted desserts on the tray by her bed.

That's what I think about as I nibble on my airplane food. Airplane food for me consists of last night's cornbread, several ounces of cheese, and chocolate. The cornbread was luxurious, moist, sweet, and toothsomely crusty, and I even baked it with air travel in mind. It's halfway to being baked polenta. No crumbs. And W. Crawford, who was under the weather and came reluctantly to the table, ate four slices last night, and three this morning.

It is imperative that the cornmeal be very fresh--very. Fresh cornmeal tastes of corn and sweetness, and will more than triple the goodness of any bread you bake with it.

Halfway-to-Polenta Cornbread

Mix three cups freshly ground, fine cornmeal with a teaspoon of salt. Bring three cups of water to a boil and pour it over the cornmeal. Stir it well and cover.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and thoroughly butter a well-seasoned #8 or 9 cast iron skillet.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and half a teaspoon of baking soda.

In another small bowl, whisk together a cup of buttermilk, sour milk, or sour half-and-half and two tablespoons of honey.

Check the cornmeal. I can't remember exactly how much water I used, so splash in some more if it looks more chunky than porridge-like. Add four tablespoons of butter and stir it until it's melted. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture and pour into the skillet. Bake until the top starts to brown.