Snow Day!! and How to Turn Egg Nog Into Ice Cream

It’s supposed to snow a bunch in Seattle tonight, which is super exciting. We rarely get snow here, and when we do, the entire city shuts down. I know it’s going to stick because the last few days have been unusually cold with clear skies. Mount Rainier was crystal clear form my house, and so were the Cascades. From downtown Seattle the Olympics out to the West looked like giant white cliffs rising out of the evergreen islands. It was way cool.

Last weekend I went to a Christmas In July (in December) party at Chris Tremonte’s house. Courtenay and I made eggnog, which was all but devoured by the thirsty party goers. All but meaning there was a little less than a quart less from a batch that started at over a gallon. Now, I’m not really interested in drinking any more egg nog (I’m really not a big drinker and that stuff is potent and rich), but I don’t just want to throw it away either. So my plan was to turn it to ice cream. And there is where I ran into problems.

This is my off-season science experiment: How cold do you have to get your nog before it freezes?

I started off with my nog refrigerated at about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. My ice cream maker was in the freezer at –5 degrees (F). Now, normally when I put a creamy sugary milky mixture into the ice cream maker under these same conditions, it begins to freeze almost instantly. Apparently alcohol complicates things. Here’s a running diologue of my nog-to-cream experience:

2008_12_16_FrozenNog 001 7pm:

After three or four minutes I realized I needed more coldness, so I moved the mixture outside where it is currently 32 degrees (F). This won’t help freeze the mixture, but it will help keep ambient heat away from the mixture.


After 20 minutes the nog still appeared thin and liquid. The sides of the bowl still had no sign of making the nog freeze and the mixture was at 17 degrees F, so I came upstairs to write this blog and see if I could find an answer to the 2008_12_16_FrozenNog 002vital question of the night: Can I make a strongly alcoholic ice cream?

My immediate answer is no, but here’s what I found on further investigation. Turns out ethanol works great as antifreeze. The freezing point of pure ethanol is –114 degrees Celcius, or –170 degrees F. The nog is about a 1:1 ratio of liquor and cream, plus a bunch of eggs, so in total it is something slightly less than 20% ethanol, which sounds like anti-freeze. So my only hope is that the abundance of fat molecules will act as a surfactant and engulf the alcohol, making it possible for the rest of the solution to freeze with the ethanol suspended.

2008_12_16_FrozenNog 005 7:50pm

That seems unlikely to me, but my most recent status check showed only slight progress, and the nog is down to 13 degrees F. My thermometer showed that the ice cream bowl is also at 13 degrees, so my next move is to put the bowl back into the –5 degree freezer, and see if I can get the whole setup any colder. If this doesn’t work I may have to heat the solution to about 176 degrees (F) to see if the alcohol will boil off without the milk congealing. Maybe a double boiler would work for that?

2008_12_16_FrozenNog 006 I’m going to give the freezer a few hours, or if I fall asleep, I’ll give it a night., so I’ll get back with more updates.

[Left: The nog was starting to get thick like the beginning of ice cream, but it was still runny to the touch, and with a bowl the same temperature as the liquid, there was no way it would continue to freeze without a little help from the freezer.]

Does anyone have a better idea for how to make this stuff freeze? I’m not really concerned with keeping the ethanol in the mixture, so distillation is fine with me, so long as it doesn’t ruin the rest of the ingredients.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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  1. buy some dry ice. throw it in there and mix it around until it is gone. it should freeze it and the dy ice just sublimates and you are left with ice cream. wah la

  2. get your units straight, I would expect more from your engineering degree. really ben, Fahrenheit? you have been away from the lab too long. but yes, dry Ice should do it or liquid nitrogen if that doesn’t work. the only problem is it will have to stay that cold or it will melt. try serving it on a bed of dry ice…..good luck kitchen scientist.

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