The Case For Making Your Own
Summer time is the season of burger cookouts, potato salads, pasta salads, coleslaws, and cold cut sandwiches. If you’re one of those “go-getters”, you will peruse the internet in search of recipes and ways to make your dishes stand out. Burgers topped with pimento cheese, potato salad with bleu cheese and candied pecans, and cilantro lime coleslaw are all lengths you master chefs will travel to in order to impress friends, neighbors and family. There is one very obvious component that most of you are overlooking and never even give a second thought. Why not try and make your own version of the greatest condiment in the history of the world…mayonnaise?
Mayonnaise is far and away my favorite condiment. It’s velvety smooth texture and rich mouth feel are unmatched by ketchup and mustard. One dip of a french fry in mayonnaise, and it’s enough to lure anyone in forever. Homemade versions are almost always amazing and worth the trouble. So, why aren’t most home cooks attempting this? Maybe because they would rather concentrate their scratch making efforts on the main components and not an accompaniment? Another reason to make mayonnaise…versatility. Mayonnaise serves as the base ingredient for many sauces, such as: ranch dressing, remoulade, aioli, thousand island dressing, tartar sauce, and bleu cheese dressing.
Mayonnaise is a type of cold emulsion sauce. Emulsion is the combining of two elements that do not mix. In mayonnaise those two elements are oil and water (in the eggs). When the oil is correctly mixed with the water, it’s disrupts the free flowing water molecules and thickens up. This is what gives mayonnaise it’s smooth silky texture. In culinary school, we used to do this by hand. We would place a dampened cloth underneath a mixing bowl (to hold it steady), and gradually whisk the oil into the eggs. Pandemonium would ensue. The towel would slide, the bowl would fall off the table, and oil would go all over the place. Do you have a blender? A food processor? Then why put yourself through this? The secret to a stable, thick emulsion is smaller droplets of oil. A machine blade is much more effective at creating this than you. Not to mention your arms will thank you.
2 large egg yolks- Contains the water that emulsifies with the oil. Also contains a substance called lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier found in yolks.
1 tbsp creole mustard- Mustard is another emulsifier that is soluble (dissolves) in both fat and water. Acts as a “bridge” in between the water and the oil. Basically, it aids in thickening the sauce. I prefer creole mustard for it’s flavor and texture of the grains. Dijon also works well. Do not use regular yellow mustard.
Juice of 1/2 lemon- Lemon juice obviously contains water, which helps emulsify the oil. Also adds a nice touch of acidity and complexity to the mayonnaise.
I cup of canola oil- Emulsifies with the water in the eggs to form the mayonnaise. I like canola or grapeseed oil for their neutral flavors. It’s ok to use olive oil-just understand that the mayo is going to have a heavy olive oil flavor.
Couple of pinches of salt- Salt adds flavor. Salt also breaks the egg yolks down, helping them to become more viscous. This will help break the oil down into smaller droplets once it is mixed. I discuss the importance of smaller oil droplets down below. For this process to have the best affect, combine salt with the egg yolks before mixing in the oil.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. The whites will make your mayonnaise too runny. There are many different methods to do this…the easiest is to simply pass the whites through a strainer. Combine the yolks, mustard and salt in ordinary home blender or food processor and pulse to combine a little. Here I am using a Vita mix and I highly recommend them.
Cut the blender up high and begin to slowly drizzle in the oil, through the top, to make the emulsion. At the very beginning it is important to drizzle slow to let the emulsion set. Once this is set and the sauce starts to get thick, you can begin to pour oil in a more steady stream. If sauce looks too runny, stop pouring in the oil, and just let the machine rock on high for a few minutes. If the sauce looks to thick, slow the machine down, and pour the oil in at a faster rate. I like to use a squeeze bottle because it’s easy to control how much oil comes out, and does not make a mess. The machine helps break the oil up into tiny droplets, which is very important for a thick sauce like mayonnaise.
Once you’ve poured in all the oil, add the lemon juice and taste to see if more salt is needed. Many chefs and recipes will have you add all your liquids, at the beginning, before adding oil, to help emulsify the sauce. Some will even have you add additional water to help with this process. They are not wrong, in fact they are absolutely correct. When using something like a vita mix, or a powerful food processor, I find this unnecessary. The machine will mix all the ingredients well enough to where the sauce will get thick enough and stay that way for several days. I use the lemon juice as more of a “seasoning” here, the way I’m adding it to taste.
The final product! Homemade mayonnaise is going to have more of a “yellowish” color as opposed to a store bought milky white color, due to the egg yolks and mustard. The taste, however, is on a completely different level, and in a good way.
Time to put it to use. To the left, I made a roast beef sandwich on sourdough bread, with tomato, arugula and plenty of homemade mayo. If I press down on top of the sandwich and the mayo comes oozing out, I know I put on enough.