Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy Homemade Mayo: Mess or Success

Once upon a time...
What do olive oil, egg, lemon, vinegar, and salt grow up to be? If you do it right, it makes great mayo!
If you don't, you fall into the category of folks like me that got downright slimed in the kitchen.  But there is hope, and I survived the learning curve and am here to tell you about the quickie 2- minute stick blender method I just tried...and found successful!

Mayo Schmayo
I grew up in a family that was highly mayonnaise-prejudiced.  My father couldn't stand anything that obviously had mayo as an ingredient.  My mother was a bit more neutral, and also necessarily bargain-conscious, so we got the store brand mayo sometimes, but the other times we purchased Hellman's.  Never has my family on either side made their own mayonnaise.  And up until today, I've been a total Hellman's snob because its texture is less smear-y and the taste is tarter than most others out there.

Hellman's vs Miracle Whip
It's a firmly divided camp.  I've found there are loyal Miracle Whip families, and staunch Hellman's folks.  in our case it was NO salad dressing or Miracle Whip.  It HAD to be Hellman's.  But, that said, I've had plenty of times I couldn't afford anything but the store brand.  I've leaned a bit farther towards liking mayonnaise in things than my father ever did, but I still am not its biggest fan until it comes to sandwiches.

Oh Brother, that Mother...
We all know the saying that necessity is the mother of invention.  Sometimes I intentionally make certain things necessary so that I have to find a better solution, as in this case.  I let myself run out of mayo, and after reading the long list of ingredients on the store jar, I knew making it myself would cut out a lot of preservatives and iffy ingredients.  And it would be cheap.  And it would be REAL.  The mayo labeled "olive oil mayo" at the store may have had some olive oil in it, but it also had soy oil and some unpronounceable additives.  And a a bigger price.

I'm making a penny scream for mercy at the checkout counter these days, and when I see store prices for things I could easily make much more economically myself, I cringe.  I almost never buy baked goods anymore from the store, or cereals. And so on.   I've been long overdue to try my hand at mayo, especially since it's something I need only in small quantities now and then.  But when you need it, there's really no substitute...say for making tuna salad, or a tomato sandwich.  So this week, I  painted myself into a corner when it came to grocery shopping and my weekly meal plan included some things requiring mayo.  It was time to learn to do it myself.

Only a few basic ingredients...
I had seen online the short list of ingredients it takes to make a basic homemade mayo, and asked myself how hard this could possibly be.  The only expensive ingredient in the basic recipe is the oil, depending on what sort is used...the other things are egg, pinch of salt, something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar, and a bit of dry or prepared mustard.  Other spices are optional...

We can't afford the deluxe forms of oils at this point, so we keep a light olive oil on hand, one we buy in the larger bulk size at the bulk warehouse.  It doesn't have a strong flavor, so it's my go-to oil for most things.  When I saw the price of the mayo versus the price of the oil which is mayo's biggest component, it made more sense this week to try my hand at a homemade replacement.

When I got home, I was in a hurry in the kitchen, multitasking several cooking projects.  Sometimes I have great success at this, but that night was the exception, argghhh!   I was reheating some homemade chicken and dumplings and scorched the whole thing (drat!), the quickie frozen pizza I stuck in the oven as its fast replacement was...errr...left for too long and ended up becoming a smoking petrified frisbee.  I was mentally tallying the wasted grocery money as the disasters compounded, all the while chopping left over bits of this and that to put into a hasty tuna salad.

It was time to make the "easy mayo."


I'll sum up.

I never realized the "slow drip oil" method was crucial to mayonnaise-making the classic way, and I never knew mayo is one of those acquired skills of a good cook.  The cookbooks I had pulled out (at this last minute) warned against curdling and separation.  Huh??  Oh dear, this was sounding touchy.   I (wrongly) deduced that maybe a better and faster way to forgo the drip method (which they said could take a long time, drip dripping oil into the other ingredients while whisking) would be to use the blender.  The REGULAR blender, the one that's big and makes smoothies in quantity.

End result?  Oh was enough to put a person off eggs and oil for a longg time.

It was a big mess, and the more I tried to salvage it, the worse it got.  There was actually a section in the Joy of Cooking cookbook instructing what to do in case of a "mayonnaise failure."   I tried their instructions, and just ended up wasting more ingredients.

And had totally slimed the kitchen in the process!

In the end, I had a sink full of oily dishes and nothing to show for the lost grocery ingredients, UGH.

But the fun continues...

Since today is a new day, and I'm not a girl who's easily vanquished in the kitchen (for the sole reason that if I accept defeat, we don't eat), today was a Do Over.  And I did what I usually do when I have to find an easier way to do something...I consult the Oracle That Is Google.

And that is how I found out a STICK BLENDER, i.e. an immersion blender, seems to be the way to go unless you are a mayonnaise snob, a French chef, or MUCH better at making saucy things than I am.

Since my standards are limited to 1.  Know the ingredients  2.  Afford the ingredients  3.  Achieve success and actually produce a real food product, I went the stick blender route.

Here's a video to show how quick and easy this is...

...(and don't think just traditional method flunkies use it -- I also saw a youtube video of Gordon Ramsay demonstrating the stick method himself)

Ingredients, thou are simplicity:
The recipes call for egg, oil, vinegar/lemon juice, often a teaspoon of spicy mustard, and salt.

Where the blender recipes vary is whether to use a whole egg, or just the yolk.  Either way produces a good mayo, though forums on the internet show debates about mayos with whole eggs (meaning including the whites, not the shells, ha) and how anything with an egg white as an ingredient isn't a true mayo.  Whatever.

Apparently the three easy tips for success with the stick blender are: 

1.  Have the egg(s) at room temp before using
2.  Do the stick blending in a narrow container such as a beaker or Mason jar (if it's much wider, it doesn't mix the same...and do not use metal containers.
3.  Position the blender stick blade all the way to the bottom, over the eggs (the other ingredients naturally will rise higher than the eggs, which are heavier, when you dump everything together before blending), and don't move the blender away from the bottom when blending, until the bottom liquid becomes thick.  THEN you move the stick up and down a few times to incorporate the rest of the oil.

NOT difficult!  And it's really good :)

Today, I did it just as the videos show and the online sites describe.  With the stick blender, it literally took two minutes!  Next time I SHALL leave the egg(s) out at room temp, as most of the instructions state.  But it still worked fine with my cold ones straight from the fridge.

The stick blender was set right at the bottom of the jar, over the eggs, and then I started blending it without moving the stick.  It started emulsifying first the eggs and I left it right there till it thickened at the bottom, then slowly moved the stick  around to incorporate the rest of the oil.  I left it in there a couple minutes.  The result was ACTUAL MAYONNAISE...hoorayyy!!!  It then went right into the fridge, and also right onto a tomato sandwich.  And it was GREAT...thick and not runny, and delicious!  (Even to a Hellman's gal)

I'm going to play with ingredients to tweak them to make my own "best" as I keep on trying this.

I went with:

1 egg plus one yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp of dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp vinegar ( used my homemade pine needled vinegar!)
few shakes of paprika
3/4 - 1 cup light olive oil

But the combinations are endless and there can be plenty of differing amounts and substitutes.

Here are some good recipes out there on the net and some blogs:

As a final note, some pages warn that since raw eggs are an ingredient, there is a risk in using them.  Some sites online show the same stick blender method, but give instructions to first heat the eggs before using.  My Amish cookbook has recipes for "cooked salad dressings" as well.  I will personally be making very small amounts of mayo at a time and using them quickly, and not leaving it out at room temp at all, especially since we're down here in warm Florida.   Use these recipes at your own risk, if you do make the raw egg method...I'm just relaying my own experiments here, but each cook takes responsibility for the safety measures in his/her own kitchen.

Do you make your own mayo or other condiments?  If so, do you have a proven, favorite recipe?  I'd love it if you'd share!


Shreela said...

Growing up in Texas, with a Yankee mom and a Deep South dad, along with being babysat by a Dutch Aruban aunt, I get my old-fashioned foods mixed up as to how I learned to enjoy them. But as far as commercial mayo goes, I grew up on Helman's because Mama did the shopping.

My Deep South grandparents used Miracle Whip, but Grandma didn't make "mayo" salads, so I only ate Miracle Whip on sandwiches there.

Now, since DH grew up on Miracle Whip - from Panhandle of Texas area, we mostly have Miracle Whip here. But if I make a mayo salad, especially potato, I'll buy Helman's for it, because mayo salads don't taste right to me with Miracle whip, even if sandwiches do LOL

I got lucky my first time trying homemade mayo because I had just watched it being made on a PBS cooking show. But I too worry about salmonella from commercially raised eggs, so I haven't made scratch mayo in a while. Many cooked mayo/dressing recipes I've found online include flour, which kinda squicks me out - like it'd be putting gravy on a salad or sandwich LOL

The only other condiments I've made are tartar, cocktail sauce, and spicy-hot mustard.

Robbyn said...

Shreela, I'd love to know how to make the spicy you have a certain recipe you use the most?

Lynn said...

I'm convinced! I'm going to try this -- your method. Forget Epic Fail #1 and #2, I'm going with your tried and true method. I've wanted to try making mayo but since I don't eat much of it, it's always been a back-burner project for another time. You convinced me to make it a February thing!

My stick has been relegated as an exclusive soap-making device, though, so I will buy another one to replace the one I snagged from the kitchen when I started making soaps. Perfect home-made mayo is a great excuse to make a purchase, and I've wanted to get off the commercial white-fluff anyway. I'm too afraid to even look at the Hellman's label but that's been our brand, btw.

Great article and I'm happy to have landed here to read your posts!

Sign me:
Future Mayo-Maker

Robbyn said...

Lynn, GREAT! There are so many good recipes out there on the internet, let me know which one you end up liking the best (I'm still experimenting, myself!) And I'd love to know how to make you have a foolproof "recipe" for that?...THAT is a project/skill I've been putting off forever :)

warren said...

The tomatoes look so pretty! I know that isn't the focus of the post but they are awesome looking. I can't wait for fresh ones here!

Robbyn said...

Warren, I have to confess...they are storebought, even though we DID have tomatoes this summer of our own! Yeah, I won't buy any from the store unless they have some "zip" the cherry tomatoes or even these. I wasn't feeling well and REALLY wanted a tomato sandwich, so I flaked and the bread AND the tomato are right from the supermarket., well... :)

Zaftig Diva said...

I am excited to try your recipe. I have looked at others but been concerned even when they claim simplicity. Thank you for including the video instructions. I am ready to add a new skill to my toolbox!

Robbyn said...

Diva, let me know how it turns out! :-D