Raise a Glass to Eggnog
Local dairies are cooking up fresh yuletide libationsBy Debbie Moose
In mid-November each year, eggnog hysteria sweeps NC State University in Raleigh.
The food sciences department starts getting questions about it in mid-September. On the day it arrives, lines at the dairy education and sales center on the school’s 329-acre farm rival ones for Santa at the mall, full of people bearing bags and coolers, ready for multiple purchases to last them through the holiday season.
Adding to the mystique is that at one time, you had to know the right people to get it.
“When we started making it in the early ’80s, we gave it away to faculty and staff. We didn’t sell it at first,” says Carl Hollifield, director of the Dairy Enterprise System in the department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.
The creamy concoction was legendary around Raleigh back then, with desperate folks begging their university connections to snag them a quart. Today, eggnog lovers can easily purchase it at NC State’s Howling Cow Dairy Education Center and Creamery off Lake Wheeler Road in Raleigh, and at campus convenience stores — for as long as it holds out.
The 1,500 gallons the department produces from mid-November through mid-December goes fast. And there won’t be more.
“We’ve made more eggnog every year and it always sells out. We’re at the max we can easily make now,” Carl says.
"You’re probably just a hop, a skip and a jingle from a locally made eggnog.”
For many, the eggnog is a taste of the university’s roots, since farming and food education was a part of the land-grant university before it became a tech center. Pasteurized milk was produced on campus in 1918, and a dairy barn used to sit where Reynolds Coliseum is now.
Students in the university’s food science department learn about all aspects of making dairy products, from the cow to the carton, including the popular Howling Cow ice cream, which is available in some supermarkets. There’s a seasonal eggnog ice cream, but it’s only sold at the Lake Wheeler Road creamery.
While students are learning, they can work at the sales outlets, Carl says. So, this is educational eggnog.
The eggnog from NC State is 5% fat, direct from the cows on its dairy farm. Carl purchases a commercial blend to add the eggnog flavor for ease of production.Folks love the eggnog for many reasons.
“For lots of people, it’s a tradition, and it has a sense of place. And I believe we make high-quality eggnog,” Carl says. “You can see the cows being milked and know where it came from.”
Around the state, local dairies satisfy folks’ love of eggnog during the holiday season with their own versions, which, like NC State’s, vanish in the blink of Rudolph’s eye. So it looks like no matter what the health-conscious say, a lot of people still love eggnog for the holidays.
As to why?
“I ain’t quite figured out that one yet,” says Randy Lewis, owner of Ran-Lew Dairy in Alamance County. “But for country folks who like it, I guess it’s a good excuse to drink more white liquor, which sure is good in it.”
No matter what you like about eggnog, you’re probably just a hop, a skip and a jingle from a locally made version. Here are a few small dairies in the state that produce it.
Homeland Creamery, Julian
Seven generations of dairy farmers produce milk and other products at the Guilford County dairy, and its eggnog was on the shelves in mid-October. While you’re at the farm store, pick up some farm-churned butter for holiday baking. Tours of the farm are available.
Ran-Lew Dairy, Snow Camp
Get ready to shake it up when you get this eggnog, because fifth-generation farmer Randy Lewis makes it from the dairy’s non-homogenized, cream-top milk. The eggnog flavoring base is made from pasteurized egg yolk solids, not a powdered mix, and sweetened solely with sugar. He makes about 2,000 gallons of eggnog from the end of October through the holiday season.
Riverbend Creamery, Lincolnton
This family-owned dairy in Lincoln County began offering eggnog in mid-October at their farm store and in area retail outlets, and plans to make about 2,500 gallons through the end of December. It’s 6% fat, sweetened with sugar only and includes “something a little different, a secret recipe” in the eggnog flavoring, says Olivia Miller, plant manager.
Simply Natural Creamery, Ayden
Customers start calling in early October about the eggnog at this Greene County dairy. It produces 800 gallons a week from mid-October to the end of December, which is sold from its retail stores at the farm and in Morehead City and Greenville, plus at area supermarkets. Try eggnog ice cream at the farm store.
About the AuthorCarolina Country recipe contributor Debbie Moose grew up in Winston-Salem and now lives in Raleigh. A former reporter and food editor for The News & Observer, she has authored seven cookbooks, including “Southern Holidays: A Savor the South Cookbook.”
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