Mayonnaise is a thick, creamy, yellowy white cold sauce that is made from raw egg yolks, oil, lemon juice or vinegar and seasonings. It is probably the most popular cold sauce available and has been around for a few centuries.
Nowadays most people buy commercially produced mayonnaise in jars however, making a mayonnaise at home is very simple and absolutely delicious.
Mayonnaise is one of the five French "mother sauces", which means that is it the basis for a range of other sauces including garlic mayonnaise or "aioli", tartar
sauce or thousand island dressing.
Mayonnaise is used as an accompaniment to fish cakes, served on the side of salads, spread in sandwiches, eaten with chips or cold meats and added to mashed hard boiled eggs to create egg mayonnaise amongst other things.
Although mayonnaise is delicious and livens up plenty of dishes, it is extremely high in calories and fat. One tablespoon of some brands of commercially produced mayonnaise can contain up to 100 calories and homemade mayonnaise is even more calorific.
Homemade mayonnaise does contain raw egg yolks, which means that it is susceptible to containing amounts of salmonella bacteria if not stored correctly or if the freshest eggs are not used.
Commercially produced mayonnaise uses pasteurised eggs, which is why it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Homemade mayonnaise can only be stored for 3 - 4 days, after which it should be discarded to prevent any infection. Small children, pregnant women and pensioners are particularly at risk with regards to infection with salmonella.
In effect, commercially produced mayonnaise may be safer for us regarding salmonella poisoning, but at the same time it is loaded with high amounts of preservatives, acids, modified starch and sugars.
Preparing a homemade mayonnaise does not involve any cooking and although easier said than done, as the process can be quite tricky, it generally involves the careful blending of the various liquids.
This can be done by using a balloon whisk, an electric hand whisk or for less hassle, a blender, mixer or food processor.
The reason why mayonnaise can be difficult to make is because mayonnaise is an emulsion. An emulsion is a mixture of two different liquids that do not usually combine together and they tend to separate immediately.
With mayonnaise, as with other types of emulsion, an emulsifier is added to stabilize the mixture and bind it together. In the case of mayonnaise, the emulsifier is the egg yolk, which contains lecithin, a natural fat emulsifier.
The egg yolks are first of all beaten together, and then whilst continuously whisking, tiny drops of oil, one at a time, are added to the egg yolks until the mixture begins to emulsify or in other words, thicken.
If the oil is added too quickly, the two liquids will just separate, which is why so much care must be taken. Once the initial danger zone has been broken and the two liquids start to combine and thicken, then the rest of the oil may be added a bit quicker. Once all of the oil has been whisked into the egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, the seasonings may be added to perfect the taste.
If you plan on making a homemade mayonnaise but are only going to use a small amount, it is best to just prepare small quantities at a time.
If you want to spice up a mayonnaise recipe, try out some of our variations below.
Use the recipe above for homemade mayonnaise adding 3 - 6 crushed cloves of garlic to the beaten egg yolks and salt. Proceed as above.
Using the above recipe for homemade mayonnaise, add 8 oz (225 g) of crumbled blue cheese into the mayonnaise at the end and mix well.
Using the top recipe for homemade mayonnaise, instead of 1 - 2 tsp of mustard, increase this to 1 tbsp and then add 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce and a few drops of Tabasco.