Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Making Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a wonderfull thing to have home made. The stuff in a jar is alright, probably won't kill you if you keep it refrigerated and tightly capped. The fresh, just whipped up stuff, to be used right there, with that recipe is the best.

This is what we mean at El Rancho Harpo when we're talking mayonnaise. The pinches of dry mustard and tarragon are purely optional and are there because I like them. Feel free to discard them if you wish. Basil is another common herb to toss in a pinch with.

You can make this just fine in the blender or the food processor. I use the whisk because I somehow have the idea that there is a consistency difference. I have no scientific basis to form this opinion. I have nothing but my own quirky sense of how things are.

As with any basic recipe in this one the ingredients are paramount. The eggs I use come from a neighbor who has chickens strolling around her back yard. They are of many varieties with a slanting toward the classic Rhode Island Red. They chase bugs and cats and small dogs. They are happy critters. My neighbor tries to be diligent about egg gathering but, from time to time, there will be a fertilized egg in the batch. There's nothing wrong with that, there's just a tiny mote of blood in the yolk. I will use them for omlettes or many other recipes, but if you're talking a hollandaise or mayonnaise if there's a fertilized egg I just use another. I keep my eggs on the counter at room temperature, for baking and sauces they work a lot better. If you have your eggs in the fridge take them out before making your sauce.


1 cup (8 fluid ounces) olive oil (i use garden variety plain label olive oil)
1 egg yolk (i don't care what you do with the white we don't need it here)
1 lemon (if your lemons are not fresh and beautiful white whine vinegar will substitute nicely)
pinches of kosher salt, white pepper, dried tarragon, dry mustard (Coleman's is the best) and a tiny pinch of lemon zest from the lemon you use

In a stainless steel or ceramic bowl (non-reactive is the key here my friends) whisk the egg yolk until it becomes light yellow and slightly smooth. Juice the lemon and add two tablespoons of the juice along with the dry ingredients and whisk to blend it all nicely.

Now comes the voodoo part. SLOWLY, SLLOOOWWWWLY, little tiny bit by little tiny bit add in the olive oil while whisking away all the time. This is a great time to have a kid or somebody hanging around the kitchen handy to help. If you don't have that I suggest having built a little berm of dish towels on the counter to hold the bowl steady while you whisk with one hand and add in the olive oil with the other. This should start to ribbon very quickly and that is the sign that the emulsion process is happening. If you haven't gotten past stirring a puddle by the time 1/4 cup of the oil is used, start over. You can increase the speed of the olive oil introduction to a very thin stream at this point, but never, ever, for any reason, should you Rush. This. Step. Just. Don't.

You can adjust the thickness of the mayonnaise by adding a teaspoon of water or lemon juice to thin (a little more lemon makes it delightfully tangy). Once you are out of oil feel free to adjust the seasonings to your very own taste. After all, that's the best part of making something as basic and common as a mayonnaise yourself. You get something that is exactly the way you like it.

It also opens whole new worlds when you are talking about things like potato, tuna, or Waldorf salads. Let us not forget what a mayonnaise this noble can bring to something like an artichoke.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what I'm making this weekend?




Best use for mayo, in my humble opinion. I'll let you know how it turns out, although I'm not too confident in my skillz. I'm an excellent cook, but things that require a delicate touch tend to get a little screwed up in my hamhands.

9:25 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yeah, blt's are about as fine a use for mayonnaise as can be found. as long as you add the oil slowly there should be no problem. there are mayonnaise mavens who insist on whisking over a bowl of ice and other such stuff. just keep whipping (whip it good!) and adding small bits of oil until you get the consistency to a place you like. it seems odd, but to thicken it further you only need to add a little more oil. to thin, water or lemon juice (vinegar also).

bon chance!

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it have to be olive oil? I mean, I use olive oil for everything, but is it okay to use other types of oil? (Just in case the olive flavors the mayonnaise more than I would like)

1:50 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i have only used olive oil. i have no reason to think that another oil would not suffice nicely. the effect of liason should be something that would respond to any other oil. after all, the same effect takes place with butter in a hollandaise, and substituting another oil has no effect at all on the liason effect in a vinagrette. i would suggest, if you want to substitute go ahead, after all, it's only one egg, ya know? there would be nothing to stop you from using the olive if the substitution doesn't work.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said elsewhere, I think whatever oil is used should probably be relatively low flavored. I like the flavor of straight extra virgin olive oil just fine, but when I made mayonnaise with it I thought the taste was quite nasty.

It tasted "stale" to me, and there's no way it could have been.

Paul, you are making what is known as an emulsion. The trick to making an emulsion isn't particularly difficult, but you have to be faithful to the technique once you learn it (& it's easy to learn).

An emulsion is made with a water based liquid, an oil, and a binder. You combine at least three parts oil with every one part of the water based liquid. When I make a vinaigrette I usually take wine vinegar and combine it with extra virgin olive oil, using a little dijon mustard as the binder, but there are other ways to make a vinaigrette that work well, too.

In mayonnaise the water based liquid is lemon juice, the oil is your choice (traditionally olive oil), and the binder is one egg yolk. The pinch of salt adds flavor.

To make an emulsion you first whisk (blend) the water based liquid with the binder. Once they're thoroughly combined (as minstrel boy described), you add the oil, but at first you must add only a very little, and whisk it quickly and thoroughly into the mixture. Once you've done that you can - slowly - add more, whisking continuously as you go.

The trick is to whisk continuously and not to overdo the adding of more oil.

You should never see the oil collecting by itself on the top or sides of the mixture as you whisk. If that starts happening you're adding the oil too fast and should stop adding more until your whisking has incorporated the extra. Then you can again - slowly - add more oil.

It isn't really that difficult, provided you are willing to use a bit of elbow grease.

Now, creaming butter and sugar from scratch with a wooden spoon......

THAT'S work!

- oddjob (who has only once done that, making a to die for batch of snickerdoodles - but then again, what other kinds of snickerdoodles are there, as long as they aren't overcooked?)

4:32 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...


5:03 PM  
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