Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's the Perfect Time of Year for Homemade Mayonnaise

It's the perfect time of year for homemade mayonnaise.  The markets are filled with glorious summer vegetables and the salad fixings are at their peak.  Not only that, but our home gardens and window boxes are spilling forth with fresh herbs.  Quickly tossing some of those fresh herbs and a little homemade mayonnaise together is the quickest way to a killer summer sauce.  A great big luscious dollop of green herbed mayonnaise tastes fabulous on top of fresh summer tomatoes, or on BBQ chicken and meats or just about any summer vegetable.

Homemade Grain-free Cashew Bread with Olive Tapenade and Basil Mayonnaise
Unfortunately, many store-bought mayonnaises are now made with soy oil.  Soy is a higher ratio omega-6 oil which means that it contributes to inflammation.  (We want more omega-3s in our diets and fewer omega-6s, see here for more information on this.)  Inflammation is a contributing factor in heart disease as well as all the auto-immune diseases and arthritis.  Another reason to avoid soy is that most soy oils are GMO.  If you can find a store-bought mayonnaise that is made with olive oil or canola oil, go ahead and use it, just check the label first to make sure they are not adding soy oil to the recipe.

Like the rest of us, I believe in purchasing already prepared foods when they are delicious and healthful.  Unfortunately, in the case of mayonnaise (and salad dressings, too) it is harder and harder to find healthy versions.  Luckily, homemade mayonnaise is actually much better tasting and it makes up pretty quickly, too, once you get the hang of it.

Here are a few things you need to know about it before you get started.

Chemistry   Often you can throw a bunch of stuff that you think goes together in a pot or a bowl and get lucky.  It will taste good.  However, there are times in cooking where hunches, chance and luck just won't work.  Sometimes cooking requires chemistry.  And chemistry is exactly what is required when it comes to mayonnaise.

Emulsion   The important word when you're making mayonnaise is emulsion.  An emulsion is "a fine dispersion of droplets of one liquid in another".  You know what happens if you pour oil and any water-based liquid into a bowl.  They float separately. Well, when you make mayonnaise, the goal is to combine water-based liquids, in this case eggs, lemon and dijon mustard, with oil.  Your goal is to create a beautiful thick creamy emulsion, not an ugly oily mess of separated ingredients.

Well, often with mayonnaise, you get an ugly oily mess of separated ingredients.  In fact, for years as a young cook, I tried one mayonnaise recipe after another, without success.

Fool Proof Recipe   At some point, however, in my early frustrated attempts to make homemade mayonnaise, I stumbled onto the perfect recipe.  The chemistry always works, if you follow it accurately.  The recipe can be found in the original Silver Palate cookbook, and again, it always works.  But you must follow it accurately. Make sure that you use the exact ingredients and the exact quantities and procedure called for.  The chemistry must be correct or the recipe won't work.

Cuisinart   This recipe requires a Cuisinart or some other form of food processor. A good cook needs good tools (and if you are going to be making homemade mayonnaise then you certainly have the right to call yourself a "good cook".)  I feel that there are two essential tools for any good home cook and they are the Cuisinart and the Kitchenaid Mixer.  I keep both of mine out on the counter where I can use them frequently.  And I do use them almost every day.  Yes, these can be expensive tools, but if you are cooking seriously, you really must have them.  Find them on ebay, at a garage sale, or ask everyone you know to chip in for your next birthday present.  Do whatever you have to do to get them if you love to cook.

Oil Options   I have used this recipe with olive oil as well as corn, safflower and canola oils.  It tastes much better with the lighter oils, but since we are all about healing with food, canola is the best choice of the three.  However, if you are avoiding all vegetable oils, you can use olive oil. The olive oil makes an earthier, more pungent, heavier tasting mayonnaise.  I have not used corn oil in years because of the GMO's and I only use canola oil occasionally for my mayonnaise and salad dressings. My cooking is done with olive and coconut oils.  If you would like to up the Omega-3 content of your mayonnaise, instructions for using part flax oil are included below.

Safety  Mayonnaise uses raw eggs in the preparation.  Because they are combined with an acid they become "cooked".  However, you still end up with a product that requires special care.  It will have a short life.  Throw away any mayonnaise you have not used after about 5 days.  This is always hard for me to do because I find I usually have a bit of this delicious substance still in the fridge on the fifth day.  However, no arguments, no second thoughts, just do it.    It is also extremely important that the mayonnaise be refrigerated during those five days.  Do not accidentally forget and leave it out on the counter for a few hours on a hot summer day and then put it back in the refrigerator.  If it gets left out, you must toss it.  Food safety is always a top priority...real cooks avoid giving their guests and family salmonella for their summer vacation!

I have made this recipe so many times that when I went to get it in my Silver Palate book just now I actually remembered the page number, page 339!

Homemade Mayonnaise 

2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 T Dijon mustard
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 cups canola or best-quality olive oil  (to make this mayonnaise high in omega 3s, use anywhere from 1/2-1 1/2 cups flax oil out of the total 2 cups of oil needed)

1.  Combine egg yolks, whole egg, mustard and salt and pepper and half the lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for one minute.

2.  With the motor running, dribble in the canola or olive oil in a slow steady stream (for Omega 3 mayonnaise, dribble in 1/2 cup or more of canola or olive oil and then add in the flax oil).  When all the oil is in, shut motor off and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula.

3.  Taste the mayonnaise.  Correct seasoning if necessary; if you are using canola oil, you will probably need the remaining lemon juice.  Scrape mayonnaise into a storage container, cover and refrigerate.  Mayonnaise will keep safely for at least 5 days.  Let it return to room temperature before stirring.

Makes 3 cups

Suggestions for flavoring mayonnaise:

Fresh herbs   Add any fresh herb such as basil, mint, thyme, tarragon or oregano.  Just fine chop a handful of fresh herbs to taste and gently stir into the mayonaise.  You can also add garlic to this if you like.

Nuts and seeds  Try walnuts or sesame seeds in the processor.  Or use pine nuts and a little basil to make a pesto mayonnaise.

Fruits  You can add chutney or jams to mayonnaise or try adding apples, horseradish, fresh dill, lemon juice and a little onion as suggested in The Silver Palate.

Aioli  For classic French Provencal aioli just add a little garlic.

Potato Salad with Homemade Mayonnaise

Tuna Salad  with Tarragon and Capers and Homemade Mayonnaise

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