Mayonnaise is perhaps one of the most popular things people add to their food. It’s used in salads, sandwiches, and more. It can be modified to add a little spice to it, though the basic form is still great. However, most people don’t give the process of how to make it much thought. They also don’t think too much on what mayonnaise actually is, either.
First off, mayonnaise is not a cream like some might think. It’s an emulsion, meaning it’s a mix of two liquids that don’t otherwise mix. In the case of mayo, it’s a mix of egg yolks, vinegar, some seasoning, lemon juice, and oils. This combination results in the mayo we know and love, and it’s a bit surprising to learn that it’s not that difficult to make your own.
Before You Begin
Quality control is essential for good mayonnaise. The eggs, oils, vinegar, and other ingredients are checked for freshness before the process even begins. Any ingredients that are in storage must also be checked for contaminants, as these will have an effect on the final product. Only once every ingredient has passed inspection will the actual process happen. The mechanical process itself is simple.
Making the Emulsion
You want to make the emulsion first because it forms the core of your mayo. An emulsifying machine might be useful, though it’s not necessary outside of an industrial context. For homemade mayonnaise, you can use food processors or blenders, or you can use a whisk and your own strength to get the job done.
Vinegar will be made from distilled alcohol. Wine vinegar and champagne vinegar add an extra punch to the flavor. Some variations might replace vinegar with lemon juice instead, though this is rare.
For mayonnaise, the oil choice can also be a huge factor. Soybean oil is not advisable, because it can go bad faster. A mix of olive oil and peanut oil is recommended by many gourmets. Grapeseed oil is also a popular choice for homemade mayonnaise. Sunflower seed oil can be a functional alternative, as well.
Making the Mayo
To start, the vinegar and oil are poured into the machine. This blend is moved through a series of positive replacement pumps. These devices have cavities that empty as the liquid combination is pumped through, with small rotary impellers that help move things along.
If you don’t have a machine, vinegar is the base and oil is added drop by drop as the base is whisked together. As the product is whisked and grows thicker, oil can be added at a faster rate along with other ingredients. Whisking has to be done correctly, or the mixture will fail to bind.
Near the end of this process, pre-measured amounts of the other ingredients are added into the mixture. Some of the more important ones might vary depending on the specific type of mayonnaise being made.
The Purpose of the Eggs
The eggs are essential because they help bind the ingredients together and keep them from breaking apart as soon as there’s no longer anything forcing them together. Eggs must be as fresh as possible. Commercial mayo usually uses heating to pasteurize the eggs without cooking them, to remove the risk of salmonella.
Low-fat variants forego eggs entirely, instead of using modified starch or other emulsifiers and thickeners. Corn, agar agar, and gums are the most common starches used for this purpose.
Lemon or Lime
Lemon juice must be diluted with water before being added. If lemon juice isn’t available, lime is also an acceptable choice. Aside from flavor, lemon or lime juice adds acidity to the mix. This acidity, in turn, helps the emulsifying process take hold.
Seasonings will typically be added last. Salt is one of the most common, both because it enhances flavor and can act as a mild preservative to prolong the shelf life of the mayo. Add-ons like bacon bits are also added at this last step, right before the mixture is prepared for the bottling process.
There are two seasonings and spices that are never added to mayo. Saffron is one, turmeric is the other. Both give the finished product a yellowish hue that many find undesirable in their mayo. It also gives the impression of added egg yolks, which can affect the overall flavor.
Shelf Life: Homemade vs Commercial
Homemade mayonnaise usually lasts three to four days, sometimes lasting up to six days if kept in a refrigerator. Commercial mayonnaise, due to specific requirements in the formulation and proportions, can last months in a refrigerated environment. The choice of oils can also affect longevity, with soybean oil often cited as making the mayo go bad faster than normal.
Mayonnaise is one of the most famous condiments in the world. It gets a lot of use on its own, but also serves as an ingredient in a range of recipes. From tartar sauce to potato salad, mayo sees a lot of use in the culinary arena and it’s great that making it is such a simple process.