I had an epiphany last week. It was a rich moment quite a few weeks in the making and has left me with a conviction that I feel from deep within my heart all the way down to the soles of my sandals. I will never again buy another jar of mayonnaise. The fact that it took me so long to come to this seems ridiculous to me now however let me polish off my rear view mirror and explain.
Mayonnaise is extremely easy to make. All you need is a bowl, a whisk, an egg and some oil. I used to make it five minutes before service banging together my last minute mis-en-place not because I was late for work that day and didn’t do my prep… but because I knew how little time it would take me and how glorious and glistening it would be freshly whipped from the robot coupe, slid into the top of a refrigerated pantry station in a clean stainless steel nine pan nestled next to cut herbs, edible flowers, fresh fruits and other delightful touches with which to finish the perfect plate.
I’ve been reading labels at the grocery store. I know, occupational hazard right? Well I’m not just looking at the art although food packaging is a stimulating form of media for my family and between myself and my dear husband we could work through an entire grocery isle and endorse or eschew hundreds of items by their visual representation alone. No, I am interested in what things are made of. Our own company’s preparation for organic certification as well as the recent article in the Times about Eden Foods and the peril slash pitfall world of U.S.D.A. Certified Organic versus truly health giving versus healthy for a robust corporate bottom line – absurdly complex sentences aside this got me thinking constantly about why things are made the way that they are made.
I’ve been in the food business for a long time and I’ve received plenty of deliveries off the backs of trucks that deal specifically in large packages of food for industrial use. Industrial Mayonnaise is very disgusting stuff. It comes in a 5 gallon bucket which is lined with a bag. At one restaurant where we used to go through obscene amounts of the stuff the bag would get hefted out and inevitably abused. Raucous games of slap and squeeze, toss and wiggle would ensue to giggles and guffaws. I would feel sick in the pit of my stomach watching that sad sack of plastic encased oil emulsion passed from one set of disrespecting hands to the next. Sadder still I knew little about nutrition at the time however somehow I instinctively knew that there was very little goodness in that bag. Even more incredulous to think that one might be able to buy the same bag of “Extra Fancy” mayo of a “low fat” sensibility. Egads! If there’s no fat in that schloop what on earth truly is? Have a quick look at these ingredient lists…
Soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, natural flavors, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality).
Water, soybean oil, vinegar, modified corn starch**, whole eggs and egg yolks, sugar, salt, xanthan gum**, lemon and lime peel fibers** (thickeners), (sorbic acid**, calcium disodium EDTA) used to protect quality, lemon juice concentrate, phosphoric acid**, DL alpha tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), natural flavors, beta carotene**. **Ingredient not in mayonnaise
As with many low fat foods notice the addition of sugar as well as in this case loads of chemical thickener. Note the calcium disodium EDTA keeps your egg based product stable at room temperature… it’s also in certain face creams that will stop your face from going bad at room temperature too. Of course the organic versions of the above listed must be better for you right? Wrong. Although there are fewer scary additives I generally find that the organic mayos all use predominantly soy oil, canola oil and palm oil all of which I have been taught for various reasons to avoid. Soy is a known adaptogen, shown to bind itself to estrogen receptors it confuses our hormonal balance. There is no such thing as a Canola plant. Rapeseed is a kind mustard seed. Rapeseed Oil is known to produce a high amount of a toxin called erucic acid. This fact was generally known by the early 20th Century public – the Mustard Gas that was manufactured from the plant I guess was a dead giveaway. The Rapeseed plant was re-engineered (bred in a laboratory) to have low toxicity at which point they re-branded it changing the name to CANOLA (Canadian Oil Low Acid). Canola Oil is generally “refined” which is a nice way of saying it’s been heated up already, and as we are learning now we want to keep to expeller pressed oils as preheated oils are more unstable and quite likely they are poised to oxidize or are already oxidized and ready to release free radicals that cause illness, rapid aging and general stress on our bodies and our guts. Palm Oil, well it’s in 50% of everything you see in a typical grocery store, and happens to be the cause for massive equatorial rain-forest destruction.
So for now… in my home I am happy with the following fat choices. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Butter and Ghee, Coconut Oil, Chicken, Pork or Duck fat and the occasional nut or seed pressed oil (kept refrigerated). Since there is no acceptable mayonnaise available (don’t even get me started on the travesty that is veganaise) I will make my own. It keeps up to two weeks in the fridge and I get to make sure that the oil used is up to my personal standard. Here’s a recipe… you don’t really need one. A great rule of thumb or ratio to remember is that 1 egg yolk will only support up to 1 cup of oil in emulsion… if you break your emulsion, never fear… start again with a new egg yolk and add your broken mixture to the new yolk.
Best hand whipped mayonnaise
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons zuké Just Juniper brine (can substitute water)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil
If you are worried about eating raw egg yolks heat the egg yolks, lemon juice and zuké brine in a small skillet over very low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly with a spatula. At the first sign of thickening, remove the pan from the heat but continue stirring. Dip the pan bottom in a large pan of cold water to stop cooking. Scrape into a round bottomed bowl, whisk for a second or so, then let stand uncovered at least 5 minutes to cool.
If you are not afraid of raw eggs you can skip this and just whisk the above ingredients together in your round bottomed bowl until they start to pale a little and thicken a little. Add the mustard, seasoning, and cayenne if using.
Drizzle the oil in very slowly at first, down the center hole into the egg mixture whisk like a pro – facial expressions indicating concentration will only increase the excellent texture of your emulsion. You will see the oil start to emulsify, each time your emulsion stabilizes you can add more oil. Transfer mayonnaise to a clean container and chill immediately. This will keep for at least 7 days refrigerated.
Do the above in a food processor or a blender if you are in a hurry or are wrist / whisk challenged. Switch up oils… I’ve had great success mixing nut oils with olive oil or adding flax seed oil to my mayo. Add more brine or favorite vinegar to thin for a creamy salad dressing, add dill and sour cream for ranch, add worcestershire, garlic, anchovies and parmesan for Caesar, add fresh ground garlic for aioli. Put a dash of your bomb diggidy on just about everything.