When I think about mayonnaise, I think about my childhood. My dad would (still?) smear a generous spoonful on a slice of white bread and top it with a fat piece of ripened tomato. As a child too old for such things, I would stick my index finger in a tub of mayo and lick it clean as if it were brownie batter. I consumed over the years what (I’m sure) has added up to be gallons of mayonnaise laden tuna salad, still a staple at my parents house. My Gran-Gran would make burgers in her tiny kitchen on top of the smallest, greasiest fire-hazard of a gas stove and somehow, mayonnaise seemed to be the main ingredient. I have no idea if she made the condiment herself or bought it at the store, but the pieces of beef were just the things in between the web of mayonnaise. She would serve them on one of those white, store bought buns with a thick piece of tomato (tomato for her, none for me) and it was bizarrely delicious. The beef was charred and a bit caramelized, the mayonnaise adding a burst of tanginess that kept the burger juicy and flavorful. I still do not understand the feat of culinary chemistry that was the mayonnaise burger, but it lives in infamy with all the colorful memories of my grandmother.
As noted above, mayonnaise is full of complex emotions. Most people either love it, or really, really hate it. And with good reason- the stuff that comes off the shelf in the grocery store is full of suspicion. Mayonnaise is essentially (or we hope) a raw egg, vinegar and oil. A few other flavors like salt and lemon juice are normal components. But then it sits there, for days, weeks! (months?! years?!) on the grocery store shelf, the fluorescent bulb rays beating down on it, aging in ways that I am sure are not graceful to a balmy temperature of whatever is seasonal at the supermarket that day. (again with the drama. chill out Rachel!) So it is no wonder a portion of the population is grossed out by it.
I’m not anti-grocery store. I’m really not. I shop at them, more than I need to most weeks. But mayonnaise is one of those things that you should never buy pre-made and mass produced. The kind you can make a home is seriously a game changer. You get to use fresh eggs, maybe even from a trusted farmer, and you know exactly what goes into it, without the awkward aging process of sitting on the shelf. You can add fun spices like paprika or cayenne for a touch of spice, or use a mixture of oils to change up the taste. Live life to the fullest people! Make your own mayo!
For people averse to the mayo, try the homemade version. It takes literally 5 minutes or less with a blender/food processor, keeps in the fridge about 2 weeks, but we usually consume it way before then. I spoon it onto hard boiled eggs with a dash of salt and hot sauce and mustard for my lunches, use it as a base for salad dressings, add paprika and sriracha for a spicy dipping sauce, and like my forebears, stir it into canned tuna with pickles and mustard for a tuna salad. Tuna salad with homemade mayo eaten on toasted sourdough with a piece of sharp cheddar, a sliver of tomato and a handful of spicy arugula: true love.
Nerd Alert: This fun link I sourced from the Institute of Food Technologists website, where they talk about the fascinating science behind the emulsification process, which is the chemical process that makes mayonnaise. There is also a fun anecdote about where mayonnaise got it’s name, and like all creamy delicious things, it’s French. A note: in the linked PDF, they warn you not to eat the mayo you make yourself, because of the risk of salmonella due to the raw eggs. This warning has some merit, because conventionally farmed chickens and their eggs could pose a risk for an infection of this type. (^that link alone should convince you to buy local, farm fresh eggs) However, this is one more reason to shop locally sourced and sustainably farmed eggs and chickens, because cleaner, happier chickens means less diseases and less risk. If you can’t get to the famer’s market for eggs, make sure the ones you buy in stores have been responsibly farmed. I’ve been making mayonnaise at home for years and have never been ill from it. In today’s culture of over-processed foods, where even basic condiment staples like mayonnaise gets run through a machine, I feel more confident about the quality of what I make at home than what I buy off the supermarket shelf. Just sayin’.
If you want to read more about what type of eggs sold in the store mean (and add more fuel to the fire of buying eggs from nice farmers) you can read this story from NPR.
I should also note that homemade mayonnaise is one of those paleo/Whole30 approved things, if you’re into such madness.
1 large egg
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon mustard, powdered, or regular Dijon if you don’t have any powdered.
3/4 cup of oil, divided. I generally use Canola oil, but you can also use olive oil. Olive oil might change the color (depending on type) and it will change the flavor, or you can use a combination.
I usually make this in the blender, the lid to my blender has a detachable part for adding ingredients. I have a tiny food processor, but if you have a larger one that has one of those fancy ingredient tunnels, you can use it instead.
Add the first 5 ingredients and 1/4 cup of oil to the blender or the bowl of your food processor. Put the lid on, and turn it on high. Slowly stream in the remaining oil with the motor running, or stop the motor and add in small batches if you need to, until it begins to emulsify (which means to thicken) When it has reached pudding consistency, you’re done! If it seems slightly thinner than it ought to be, it will likely thicken in the fridge. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and never buy store bought mayo again!