Nutmeg, part 2: Eggnog pie signals holidays
When David and I were first married, we rented a basement apartment in Linnton, the Northwest Portland community by the St. Johns Bridge. Our landlady was a bit nosy and not a particularly good cook, but she made great eggnog pie.
I began making the pie for our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts in about 1975, the first year we took over holiday dinners from the in-laws. I once tried pumpkin, and it was a miserable mess of burnt orange and crispy crust. Everyone complained, so I happily returned to making eggnog pies the night before Thanksgiving and the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
Some time in the 1980s, Julie Swindell Bookman, food editor at The Columbian, printed the recipe with the story about my getting it from the landlady. In the 1990s, when No. 2 and 3 sons were in college, they thought it would be even better if they boosted the rum in the creamed mixture. The result? Awful. Inedible. Since then, they’ve cleared out of the kitchen and let me work out the taste in peace. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it as part of the holiday cheer.
Prepare a standard pie crust and let it cool.
Scald 1 cup milk in a double boiler.
Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add to milk and cook until thick and smooth. Stir constantly for about 5 more minutes.
Beat 3 egg yolks. Add a small amount of the creamed mixture to the eggs and then reverse, slowly pouring the eggs into the hot creamed mixture and always stirring with a wire whisk. Cook for a minute or two. Remove from heat.
Grab 1 unflavored gelatin packet and dissolve in a tablespoon of cold water. Add to the hot creamy mixture and stir with the whisk so the gelatin is distributed throughout. Then add 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of rum or whiskey. Put the mixture in the refrigerator so it can cool, but check on it from time to time, again stirring with the whisk.
Beat a cup of whipping cream and 2 egg whites in separate bowls. The egg whites should form stiff peaks. For a long time, I worried about raw egg whites and salmonella. Now I wash and dry the egg shells before I crack them open. Most of the bacteria live on the shell, and I never use an egg that has the slightest break in it when I take it out of the box.
By now you should have three bowls: the whipped cream, the beaten egg whites and the cooled creamed mixture with the rum. Add the whipped cream and the egg whites alternatively to the creamed mixture. Fold the resulting mix into the cooled pie shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg and park in the refrigerator for at least three hours.