08 April 2013

Homemade Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is part of the life blood of Southern food culture.  We use is so many things it's almost funny.  We should all pretty much expect to drop dead of a coronary at fifty thanks to all that fat and cholesterol, but we do know yumminess when we taste it.  It's a dominant, if not primary ingredient in our salads (potato, chicken, egg, tuna, etc...), sandwiches, casseroles.  Heck, we even use it in chocolate cake.  If you've never had a mayonnaise cake you don't know what you're missing, either.  Any Southerner worth their salt also has definite opinions when it comes to the quality of the mayonnaise.  Hellmann's is the mayo of choice around my house.  We don't do generic.  There are no substitutions.  I know this sounds crazy, but if you've every experienced a tomato sandwich at the peak of summer on some good wheat bread, some crisp lettuce, a sprinkle of salt, and a smear of real mayonnaise, you haven't really lived.  It's heaven on earth.  Seriously.

I had never made homemade mayonnaise before.  It almost felt like a little bit of a betrayal.  I have made other sauces similar to mayonnaise -- hollandaise and bernaise sauces are cousins.  Mayonnaise also has a reputation for being finicky.  Mayonnaise is an emulsion.  An emulsion is a combination of two substances that are usually unblendable.  The emulsion of mayonnaise seeks to bring together the usual enemies of oil and water.  There's water in the egg yolks, and as we all know oil and water don't mix, but the fat in the egg yolks is an emulsifier that magically brings it all together and makes the oil and water play nice.  If you have never made homemade mayonnaise, you should try it.  It will elevate those salads and sandwiches to a whole other level of heavenliness.

Fill a big bowl about half way with ice.  If you think you need help getting the bow to sit still, put a dish towel under it to help it get some traction on the kitchen counter.

Put a smaller bowl on top of the ice in the large bowl.  The cold will help stabilize the emulsification magic happen.

Get some fresh, cold egg yolks and put them in your bowl.  

Add some mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and a little salt.

Whisk that mixture until it gets well combined and a little bit frothy.

Drizzle in the oil very slowly and whisk very vigorously the entire time.  

Poof!  Like magic -- it's mayonnaise.  You can keep it in the fridge, covered, up to a week.

Homemade Mayonnaise
makes about 1 cup

2 egg yolks
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vinegar (I used red wine vinegar, but any kind will work)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
scant 1 cup vegetable oil

Fill a large bowl half full with ice; place a second smaller bowl on top of the ice.  Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt in the smaller bowl.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture is slightly frothy.  Slowly add the oil, whisking the entire time.  You should barely drizzle in the oil at first, but you can add it a little faster after about half of it is added.  Season with salt to taste.  Store in covered in the refrigerator up to one week.

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