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Foodies! Making' Mayonnaise

05 March 2015   Steve Roberts
Makin’ Mayonnaise or, Mayonnaise; A ‘Murican Mother Sauce

Making mayonnaise at home might seem like a daunting task, but, as I will show you, it is a culinary feat that is as simple as it is impressive.  The only things you need to make mayonnaise are three common ingredients: eggs, oil, and an acid (vinegar, wine, citrus, etc).  While you could build a simple “mayo” from just these ingredients, we are going to fancy it up with additional elements.

The first step to making mayonnaise is understanding the process that makes it function: emulsion.  Emulsion is defined as a mixture of two immiscible (unmixable) liquids.  Culinarily (Yes I invented a new word) speaking there are two different types of emulsions: temporary and permanent.  Temporary emulsions are like a simple vinaigrette; while the oil and water won’t mix permanently (without additional help), when agitated they stay together long enough to coat a salad, but will eventually separate back out.  Other temporary emulsions use “fence” emulsifiers like mustard and, when properly mixed, will stay together for a long while, will eventually separate and are therefore not permanent.  

Permanent emulsions use emulsifiers to combine two liquids into one that is thicker than either it combined.  Examples of permanent emulsifiers are lecithin and soap (yes, like dish soap.  Why did you think it was so good at removing grease?).  Another variant of a permanent emulsion is using long protein strands to emulsify meats, like in hot dogs (Hot Dog!  But that is a subject for another day).  The emulsifier we are concerned with today is lecithin.  Lecithin is naturally occurring in many forms, it is an integral part in making up the many systems necessary for life.  Culinarily (there it is again) the most commonly used versions are egg, soy, and (to a lesser extent) butter.  Mayonnaise usually uses and egg based lecithin for emulsion, although soy based versions are popular for “vegannaise”.

Warning - Technospeak paragraph:  Lecithin is a long chain molecule, one side of which has an attractant for the covalent bonds of water and the other side has an affinity for long fat molecules.  As the lecithin molecules surround the fat molecules, they bring the water with them, essentially coating the fat molecule with water, preventing it from combining with other fat molecules and creating a stable emulsion.  

Now when an emulsified sauce “breaks” it is the fat molecules coming back together again.  Common reasons for emulsions “breaking” are: adding too much fat (or just too quickly), temperature changes after emulsion, or insufficient mixing speed.  The first course of action for a broken sauce is to add a tablespoon of cold water while whipping the sauce vigorously.  If that doesn’t work, try whipping an egg yolk and whipping it into the emulsion (again, vigorously!).  If that doesn’t work either, consider a total teardown and starting anew, after all, the ingredients aren’t (usually) that expensive and the quality may suffer with too much messing about.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks: Making a Mayonnaise.  You will need:

1 Whole egg (read, yolk and white, feel free to toss the shell)

1 Egg yolk

2 Cups light oil (soy, canola, corn, anything without too much of its own “flavor”

2 Tbsp acid (lemon juice, cider vinegar, dry white wine,etc)

1 Tbsp Strong Mustard

1 Tbsp Natural sweetener (Sugar, Agave, Honey, Etc)

1 Tbsp Kosher Salt

Method

  • Place egg and egg yolk into the bowl of the stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or do by hand but be vigorous about it!), whip until combined
  • Add acid, mustard, sweetener, and salt to eggs, making sure to mix together quickly as the hygroscopic (water attracting) properties of salt and sugar will “burn” your eggs if left in contact without mixing.
  • While running the mixer at full speed slowly add the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated or your mayonnaise is at the desired consistency.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings

Now that you have a general idea of how to make a mayonnaise, the world is your oyster.  This skill allows you to make any different dressings and condiments.  Use lemon juice for your acid, add chopped anchovies and parmesan cheese and you have a killer Ceaser dressing.  Use lime juice for acid, add lime zest and chopped jalapenos and you have a zesty (pun Def. intended) sauce for seafood sandwiches.  Add sriracha because: spicy!  Your only limitation is your own imagination!

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This foodies article is paid for and sponsored by Nastee Dogs, where you find Prescott's best homemade hotdogs!

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