A jovial, tasty toast to the Winter Solstice

December 21 is a busy day for celebrating.
First off, it is the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the end, so to speak. Earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere and the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. This is the shortest day of light, and the longest of night’s darkness.
Yule, however, is a Pagan celebration of the return of the sun which ensures rebirth, renewal of, and the continuation of life on, Earth.
It is also, once again according to Good Housekeeping magazine, National Coquito Day. Now before you go running off to your favorite Mexican place to gorge on taquitos, that’s coquito, not taquito.
Alright then, what is a coquito? Coquito means “little coconut” in Spanish and is a traditional Christmas drink that originated in Puerto Rico.
The coconut-based alcoholic concoction is similar to eggnog, and is referred to as “Puerto Rican eggnog”.
The cuisine of Puerto Rico is quite different from Mexico, but if Mexican food is the closest you can find, at least you will not be too far off-the-mark.
How different is eggnog from coquito? Eggnog originated from the early medieval (476 ACE - 1500 ACE) English drink called posset, made with hot milk that was curdled with wine or ale, and flavored with spices.
Posset use was primarily medicinal as a cold and flu remedy. In the American colonies (1700s), George Washington, our first president, came up with his own recipe for eggnog. He did not mention how many eggs to use, but culinary historians estimate an even dozen.
George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe
One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2-pint rye whiskey, 1/2-pint Jamaica rum, 1/4-pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.
Please note, it was heavy on the alcohol, and no one felt any pain after a few tankards of this drink.
Of course, the recipe has been simplified, or over indulgent in alcohol, depending on which recipe you happen to find. Here’s a simple Americanized version.
Traditional American Eggnog
Ingredients: Eggs, whites and yolks separated – 4, Sugar -- 1/3 to 1/2 cup, Milk -- 2 cups, Heavy cream or half and half -- 1 cup, Rum or brandy -- 1/2 to 3/4 cup, Nutmeg -- 1 teaspoon
In a large bowl, use a whisk to beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Add the sugar and beat until it is fully dissolved. Stir in the milk, cream or half and half, rum or brandy and a pinch of nutmeg. Chill well.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat some more until they form stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the yolk-cream mixture with a spatula. Pour into a serving pitcher and chill.
When ready to serve, pour into individual serving glasses and sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Of course, eggnog, with or without alcohol, can be purchased at many supermarkets, or local markets.
Well now, doing all this research on eggnog, guess what I discovered? Mexico does have its own version, so going for those taquitos, or the whole of several enchiladas, will not be an off-the-mark thing after all.
(Mexican Eggnog)
Ingredients: 6 cups milk, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 whole clove, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1/3 cup slivered almonds, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 8 egg yolks, whisked, ½ to 1 cup dark rum, for serving
Add milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, clove, and ground nutmeg to a large pot over medium heat. Whisk together to combine. Bring to a simmer, whisking every minute or so to ensure that the milk doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.
Carefully transfer 2 cups of the sweetened milk mixture to a small bowl. Add the slivered almonds and set aside. Let the sweetened milk mixture and the soaking slivered almonds sit for 30 minutes to cool down.
Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and clove from the milk mixture with a slotted spoon. If the cinnamon stick broke into small pieces, pour the mixture through a strainer to remove it.
Add the soaked almonds and the liquid into a blender and blend until completely smooth. Depending on the power of your blender, this could take anywhere from 1-4 minutes on the highest setting. Add the blended almond milk and vanilla extract to the pot. Whisk together to combine.
Slowly pour in the egg yolks, whisking constantly until they’ve all been incorporated into the milk mixture. Place the pot over medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes, whisking the mixture every minute or so, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
To serve warm, add 1/2 to 1 cup of rum and whisk to combine. Serve in mugs topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
To serve cold, add 1/2 to 1 cup of rum and whisk to combine. Let the mixture cool for 1 hour, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve in cups over ice topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Makes 8 servings.
…and last, but not least, to honor National Coquito Day, here’s a recipe for the Puerto Rican version of eggnog.
Ingredients: 1 and 1/2 cups rum, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 oz. raisins, optional, 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk, 1 (15 oz.) can cream of coconut (Coco Lopez), 1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut milk (with thick coconut cream on top), 4 oz. evaporated milk, ½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, 4 Tbsp. shredded coconut, optional
In a blender, puree all the other ingredients. Pour into the bottle and shake well to combine with rum/raisins mixture. 
Chill for at least 4 hours before serving to allow flavors to meld and coquito to thicken. (The coconut cream will thicken as it chills.)
Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up 2 weeks. Shake vigorously each time before serving!
OPTIONAL: In a large pitcher with a lid (or two large jars with lids - this will make about 56 oz of liquid) add rum, cinnamon sticks, and optional raisins (if using). Let sit for at least 1 hour, or up to a week. (This will add an extra depth of flavor to your coquito.)
Enjoy whichever version strikes your fancy, but remember, if it contains a lot of alcohol, and you imbibe generously, you just might find yourself, dancing sky clad under the moonlight, like a Pagan.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday