The recipe I’ll never share.

Sappy (adj):

  1. Full of sap, juicy.
  2. Excessively sentimental.

DING DING DING! I’m admittedly guilty of definition #2. This season makes me sappy! I talked about how nostalgic I get during the holidays, and I love the annual traditions that come along with it. I cling to those dear memories from a happy childhood and love to learn about what others do each year.

While my beloved grandmother was burning the dinner rolls every single year on Christmas Eve, John’s family was popping champagne and splurging on caviar or smoked salmon. Two years ago, he presented me with this tradition, and I tasted my first caviar. (The champagne washed it down.) Now it’s one of our annual holiday things!


I wrote about my Christmas memories as a child. Now, whenever my family is able to be together for Christmas, my mom will prepare an elaborate feast of holiday ham on Christmas Eve and we open one present each that night. In the morning, my mom has to awaken us kids with sleigh bells outside of our bedroom doors. One of us plays “Santa” and hands out the gifts under the tree. We open them one by one, in order of the oldest to youngest. We put out a box for wrapping paper, and shoot crumbled wads like basketballs across the room toward it. After the gift mayhem is over with, the ladies of the house adjourn to the couch with Christmas mimosas while the men cook us all a huge breakfast, usually involving multiple pork products.

My mother sent me her family recipe for holiday nut roll, which is a buttery pastry filled with walnuts and raisins and maybe some cinnamon. She told me about how she and her brothers would gather nuts from the black walnut tree in the yard of her childhood home during this time of year. The kids would crack open the shells and get the nuts out, and then my grandmother would grind them up for the pastry. What a fun tradition- with a treat after all of the hard work! I can’t wait to make the nut roll recipe and share it with you.

I adore the fact that John and I already have a few traditions of our own. Christmas Eve caviar and champagne is one of them. But the best day of the year is Eggnog Day. I’ve been honored to be involved with making John’s secret family recipe for scrumptious homemade eggnog for the better part of a decade. This is not your typical eggnog, you guys. It’s pure decadence. It takes hours to make, and tastes like Christmas in a glass. A very boozy Christmas.


That’s the extent of the recipe that you get to see. “110” was the address number from the house in Richmond, Virginia where John’s great, great grandmother lived. That’s John’s grandmother’s grandmother; the recipe dates back to the 1840s!


I have been entrusted with this family recipe, so please forgive me for withholding it from you. I can’t even tell you what goes into it, beyond the basics. A main ingredient is obviously EGGS. There are multiple hand mixers involved. I can allow that there is sugar in the mix, and also a significant amount of alcohol. Another key component? Santa hats. GET IN THE SPIRIT, people.


The recipe is all about proportions: how much of each ingredient per egg. We doubled the triple batch this year! It lives in a large vat in the fridge, and gets better the longer it “cooks.” Cholula got her first taste of the nog last year (and loved it). This year, she seemed confused with the noise, but interested because of our excitement.


There are traditions within this tradition. We always taste the final batch together out of the huge vat. The nog is always enjoyed in John’s Lake Placid Olympics tumblers, the ones his parents got in 1980. And when we give it as gifts, we always scoop the eggnog into big mason jars and wrap them up with a bow.


John remembers his parents throwing big Christmas parties each year, laughing and ladling out the nuclear eggnog all evening long. I am in love with the thought that his family has been clinking glasses filled with holiday spirit every year since the 1800s – and that we continue the tradition with our families and share it with our friends.


See? Super sappy. And I love it.

Does your family have any secret recipes? What do you get sappy about this time of year? 


  1. gah, I HATE secret recipes! especially because they always look the most delicious! if something is that amazing, I would want to share it with the world. no use withholding something that is pure joy – cooking is a love language, and it shouldn’t ever be stifled! (I TOTALLY understand that you’re not allowed to share it, I am just expressing my feelings, a lot of which are just jealousy, haha 😉 )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s