Oh Mayonnaise, stop playing with my emotions and emulsify…
For something so universally available, at such cheap prices, you’d think it would be really easy to make but as I descend into the depths of this stuff called food I find myself running into brick walls at times with basic technique-driven principles. I’ve probably gone through a gallon of oil in the last week experimenting with emulsions and trying to get more comfortable with making basic mayonnaise. Its been a bit rage inducing at times but I believe I’ve finally nailed it.
As always I like to understand exactly what it is im getting into before diving in like an idiot so I got to researching, what exactly is Mayo? Feel free to skip this paragraph if technical science doesn’t concern you. Essentially the base of any mayo is oil, vinegar (or lemon juice or both), and egg. The reason egg even gets in the mix is that oil and vinegar are natural enemies and do not want to combine, the lecithin in the egg yolk acts as a mediator between the two warring chemicals and allows them to bond and become one. This is what is known as an emulsion, a product in which two things that don’t want to be together have been forced together by a 3rd party. Its like two people who used to date, but still have a lease on the place they live at, so they are forced to live there because neither wants to break the lease even though they hate each other.
Why would we want to make this ourselves instead of just buying it at the store? Well flavor for one, at home we can control the spices and the type of vinegar used. Manufacturing plants usually use white vinegar and at home we can use things like rice/champagne/wine vinegars to give it more complexity. Also, its more fun to do stuff yourself.
For this project I had no interest in burning out my arm by hand-whipping it, if you want to do that then more power to you but for my purposes I just used the Cuisinart hand blender with the whisk attachment.
The final recipe
- 1 Yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon splenda (or sugar)
- 1 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (whatever flavor you want)
- 1 cup oil of your choice
Initially I tried just doing a very simple lemon juice, egg yolk, oil and salt combination…the bare basics.
I swear, I tried this simple mix at least 3 times and could never get it to emulsify. It always ended up looking like this.
Watery egg solution. No bueno.
I switched up recipes after failing 3x to get the basic version to work to use a vinegar/lemon juice combination with alittle bit of splenda/sugar and mustard. The addition of the sugar/splenda/spice grains, in theory, should have helped act like an abrasive and help with emulsification. Also I hoped that the addition of vinegar would change things slightly.
I put the powders into the container that I would be whipping in, and added about half of the lemon juice/vinegar solution.
First I just whipped together the base of the mayo, the juice/spices/yolk. Then I began the basic steps. Pour in the oil as you whip. I failed miserably once again. I found that you actually do have to respect the pace at which you pour the oil in. You can clearly see that I kinda just wing it and in the end I’m stuck with a watery mess that refuses to get along.
Finally I raged and said I was going to do everything I could to slow down the flow, and do it properly. I put the oil into a squeeze bottle and at first only let a couple drops out, immediately it looked better than the other attempts so I began to get excited, I slowly increased the flow of oil. Suddenly the jar started shaking and I realized it was because it had “caught” and it was now thick. This is why I recommend doing this in the sink, and using the sink to hold the cup. If you’ve got a giant bowl and are making alot then it should be fine but if you’re using a small cup to make a small amount, then use the sink to hold it so you can use both hands to control everything else. Also…when it does “catch” it can splatter everywhere. I learned this the hard way as well.
At the behest of one Alton Brown I also learned that you should use half your vinegar/lemon juice in the beginning, then once you have an emulsification, add the rest, then finish up the oil.
What you come out with some creamy goodness that would make any store bought mayo blush.
Now I get that plenty of people are successful using the basic egg/lemon/oil combination, it just ended up failing constantly for me. The best version I could pull off was this one.
Just remember technique, slow slow slow drip at first.