Food for Thought

The condiment of summer: If you don't have this, you're behind the foodie times

The condiment of summer: If you don't have this, you're no foodie

mayo Mayonnaise homemade in bowl
Today there are dozens of mayos, some flavored, some gluten-free, to choose from. But the very best mayonnaise you’ll ever taste is the one you make yourself. One Messy Kitchen

What is it about summertime and mayonnaise? This delicious condiment is turning up in all kinds of summer dishes: Sandwiches, salads, deviled eggs.

Lately, I have been noticing a bombardment of TV ads for mayonnaise. In particular I can’t seem to go more than an hour on the morning news without seeing commercials for Duke’s, which is apparently great in chocolate cake, and Blue Plate Real Mayonnaise, a staple of the South. (And no, that’s not really Morgan Freeman doing the voice over.)

Frankly, I’ve never heard of these brands. Growing up it was always Hellmann’s (Bring out the Best!) and Mom used it on sandwiches, in her famous yellow potato salad and deviled eggs. All summertime favorite foods.

 Today there are dozens of mayos, some flavored, some gluten free, to choose from. But the very best mayonnaise you’ll ever taste is the one you make yourself. 

But I really never gave the stuff much thought until we moved to Germany and it became the condiment of choice for dipping pommes frites into, along with mustard. Who needs ketchup? Never really liked the stuff myself.

I continued to like mayo when we moved to the Lone Star State where true Texas burgers come with mayo and mustard instead of ketchup.

What is it about this creamy, thick, tasty condiment?

Mayo's Real Hidden History

It’s been around for centuries although the actual origin isn’t known. Versions of this emulsion of egg and oil have turned up in documents as early as 1642 in France and shortly after in Spain. In the early 1900s it turned up commercially in America, with Hellmann’s being the first to mass market it in 1912.

Today there are dozens of mayos, some flavored, some gluten free, to choose from. But the very best mayonnaise you’ll ever taste is the one you make yourself.

And it’s really not that hard.

 It’s actually very easy to make mayonnaise from scratch and only takes about 15 minutes. 

Here’s a classic recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook Volume 1, revised edition published in 1965:

Rinse a bowl in hot water, dry it well, and in it beat two egg yolks with a rotary beater. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and dry mustard, 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper, and a teaspoon of vinegar. Mix well. Add one cup olive oil, drop by drop at first, beating continually, until a little more than 1/4 cup oil has been added. Add 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, still beating, and then pour in the rest of the oil in a thin stream, beating continually. Stop adding the oil from time to time to make sure the mixture is well combined. When all of the oil has been added, finish with 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. An electric mixer may be used  for mayonnaise, at medium mixing speed. Lemon or lime may be substituted for the dry mustard.

If mayonnaise should curdle, wash the beater, beat one egg yolk in another bowl, and very slowly add the curdled mayonnaise into the fresh egg yolk, beating constantly, to form a new emulsion.

There are also about a dozen different recipes for flavored mayonnaise, everything from almond to caviar. I decided to try the basic recipe, with some variations, and taste it against the Hellmann’s variety in the fridge. The first things I noticed were the preservatives on Hellmann's ingredient list and the fact that instead of olive oil it uses soybean oil. Hmmmm.

It’s actually very easy to make mayonnaise from scratch and only takes about 15 minutes. The key is to add the oil (I used real extra virgin olive oil from Giacomo’s cibo e vino) drop by drop while whisking like a maniac, constantly. (I used a hand whisk instead of an electric mixer.) I also decided to use jalapeño mustard instead of vinegar.

We tasted the results on cold chicken. The creaminess of the homemade version was better than the store bought. And the taste was good, but not as spicy as I had hoped. Next time I’ll use more of the spicy mustard.

Or I’ll pop for some caviar and try that one. That really sounds good.