Where I experiment with mayonnaise
This isn’t the first time that spinach dip has lead to a change in the way I live my life. However, normally, the change that spinach dip leads to is me going to buy larger pants.
Anyway, I wanted spinach dip1 and started looking for the ingredients to make it. Alas, I had no spinach. Or sour cream. Or mayonnaise.
But, then I started thinking about mayonnaise, as I had no idea what it was2. I recalled some real old anecdote about some French general and a promised salad dressing if he won a battle or something, but that was really it.
So, I turned to Alton Brown. Mayonnaise is an egg yolk (I figured eggs were involved, but I really thought that, considering the color, it would be egg whites) that has some spices added to it (most notably a little mustard powder) and is then beaten like hell as you add some acid and then add oil very, very, very slowly.
My first attempt at mayo just didn’t turn out – I beat the hell out of an egg yolk, but my hand slipped pouring in the oil, and I never was able to successfully emulsify the product. My second (and every subsequent) attempt was much better.
You take an egg yolk & add a half-teaspoon each of fine-course salt and mustard powder along with a pinch of sugar. Beat the hell out of it until you have a yellowy goup. Then, in a separate bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Pour half of that into the yolky yellow goup and, again, beat the hell out of it.
Then, very slowly (and I cannot overstate how slowly you need to do this) add 1 cup of oil (I’ve been using corn oil, but I’ll likely switch to grapeseed or olive oil) – starting with mere drops at first. Add a few drops, beat the mixture like hell, add a few more drops.
The mixture will start to thicken — and after 1/4 cup of oil, you’ll start to see things turn white. After 1/2 cup of oil, you can mix in the rest of the vinegar & lemon juice mixture, and then you can start adding oil a little more quickly (but do NOT add the oil fast – as you’re whisking the hell out of everything, there will be a distinct line between “oil” and “not oil,” and the whisking will clear that line – but, as you’re doing this, you’ll notice that there has to be a point where the entire mixture can break down – that’s when you completely stop adding oil & whisk until it feels like your arm is going to fall off).
Each cup of mayo takes me about 20 minutes to make — according to Alton Brown, you can keep it at room temperature for about 2 hours and refrigerated for about a week. The result is…different than store-bought mayo, and I much prefer the stuff I’ve made at home. It doesn’t taste greasy (and I wish I had a better way to describe this – but I don’t), and with barely any sugar, it’s a very subtle, refreshing taste (I’d argue that you could cut the sugar out, completely, or add just a dab of honey).
So far, I’ve used it in two great-big batches of macaroni salad (I tried my best to copy the “Amish” recipe – the best part about making it at home is that, at the end, the macaroni isn’t swimming in this sweet, goupy, and soupy mixture concoction). According to Duffy, it’s the best she’s ever had, but I think there’s some room for improvement – my first batch was overly-oniony, and my second batch was actually too subtle. When I perfect my recipe, I’ll post it here.
I’ve also made a pretty stellar coleslaw (head of finely chopped cabbage, two grated carrots, 2/3c homemade mayo, 1 tablespoon each of whole milk & white vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar (which can be omitted, entirely), and salt & pepper to taste) and some of the best tuna salad (2 cans of tuna, 1/2c homemade mayo, 3 stalks of finely chopped celery, 1/2 finely chopped onion, 2 teaspoons of Old Bay, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/4 cup of pickle relish (pickles are something I’d consider making myself, except that cucumbers don’t last for very long in my house), 2 hard boiled eggs, and some oregano).
I’m not sure it’s truly healthier….well, fewer processed ingredients is probably healthier than more processed ingredients, but the results are far yummier.
And, when you’re really frustrated – beating the shit out of an egg yolk until it turns white is quite effective.