Monday, June 4, 2007

The Power of Emulsification... Or... Make Your Own Damn Herb Infused Olive Oil Mayonnaise!


My first instinct is to say that this is much better than store bought mayonnaise. But in truth, we're dealing with apples and oranges here. Hellmann's, or as we say west of the Mississippi, "Best Foods," simply doesn't compare. Now don't get me wrong, Hellmann's, BF, Kraft and friends make a perfectly reasonable spread when the time comes to add an innocuous fatty substance to a sandwich (just let's not bring up Miracle Whip, okay?), but homemade mayo just has a way of showing off the flavors of the oils and acids with which it's made in a way that industrial mayo can't, and in all fairness, doesn't aspire to. The flavor of your own mayonnaise will be much more intense. So, take the plunge and give it a go! Here's what to do:

First, you'll need to infuse some vinegar with herbs, which is pretty easy, if time consuming. You can use whatever vinegar and herbs you like. I went with white wine vinegar, tarragon and chives. After washing your herbs, dunk them into a bleach solution (1/2 tsp of bleach per quart of water) for a few seconds, to kill off any spores that might be hanging around, then rinse in clean water. Blanching and shocking will kill off bacteria, but the only way to get rid of spores is to use bleach. And no, it won't impart any bleach flavor to the herbs, as long as you don't leave them in the solution for more than a few seconds, and you remeber to give them a good rinse. You'll be steeping the herbs in the vinegar, and of course, the container you use to do this will need to be sterilized, by dunking it into boiling water for a few minutes. Once said container is sterile, throw in the vinegar and herbs (and store in a cupboard):


Once the vinegar has steeped for at least two weeks, it can be strained through cheesecloth and bottled. Again, you'll want to sterilize all of your equipment (bottles, tongs, caps, pourspouts, etc.) in boiling water, just as you would if you were canning fruit. Your cheesecloth, as long as it's clean, probably doesn't need to go through the sterilization process (but you can never be too safe...). Strain your now infused vinegar into your now sterilized bottles and add some new herbs (which will need to have been put through the above-mentioned bleaching process, of course):


Now, to the mayonnaise: Combine one egg yolk, one 1/2 tsp of salt, one 1/2 tsp of dried mustard (or one 1/4 tsp of prepared yellow or dijon mustard), one tsp of sugar, two tsp of lemon juice and one Tbsp of your infused vinegar into a non-reactive mixing bowl, and whisk the hell out of it, until it's nice and frothy (really, whisk like you mean it; this will turn the yolk itself into a powerful emulsifier, which will be crucial to the end result). Transfer this to a stand mixer or food processor and add one cup of oil (I went with half canola and half extra virgin olive oil, although you can get as fancy as you want and use walnut oil, hazelnut oil, or whatever; it should be said that the flavor of whatever oil you use will be pretty strong in the final product, so consider cutting it with canola, corn or safflower oil). Add the oil a few drops at a time at first. As the mixture begins to emulsify, you can increase the oil to a steady stream. Check this mad mixer action:


Of course, you could do this by hand with a balloon whisk. If you have all afternoon; and if you're a bad-ass. Which I don't; and I'm not. That's why I picked up the mixer. If you don't have one, you can probably find a good deal on Craigslist or E-bay. I highly recommend it. And of course, you could multiply the proportions of the ingredients if you want a lot of mayo. But bear in mind, the mayo won't keep for much more than a week in the fridge.

Now here's the weird part: Once your mayo is thoroughly mixed, you'll want to cover it and leave it at room temperature for at least four hours. Yes, I know, there are raw eggs at play here. But the finished mayo will have a PH of around 3.6, a very acidic environment which will kill any salmonella that may have been present in the egg yolks. And for reasons still obscure to food scientists, that acidic environment will kill off the salmonella faster at room temperature than in the fridge.

So now that we've made this mayonnaise and we know that it's safe, what can be done with it? Well, you could put it on your next BLT, or use it to make an egg, potato or waldorf salad... Or you could, as I did, add some garlic, thus rendering it an aioli, and sauce a nice piece of fish:


It's up to you. Of course, now that you know how to make mayonnaise, you're on your way to bernaise, hollandaise, etc... The possiblities are limitless! Have fun with your bad self...

5 comments:

The Pastry Pirate said...

mayonnaise is icky.

tommy said...

So just as I'm sitting down and getting ready to draw upon all of my rhetorical skills in the defense of mayonnaise, I happened to look in my refrigerator, and discovered that the mayo I made is beginning to separate... which means that it is, in fact, icky. Perhaps it could have used more yolk. Oh well. It sure was tasty yesterday!

Trisha said...

Again with the fish? Oh Tommy!

tommy said...

Man, I can't catch a break from either of you on this one...

Pirate: One of these days I will be trying your asparagus suggestion from a while back. When that happens, I will insist you try your hand at making some mayo! You will be amazed at its tangy and unctuous goodness!

Trisha: No fish at all? Ever? Not even fish and chips? Not even Mrs. Paul's? Where are you getting your Omega 3s?

The Pastry Pirate said...

i *have* made my own mayo... i had to. in my "culinary skills for bakers" class i had a mayo practical as well as a hollandaise practical. i made both, tried both and spat them out. Yuck. YUCK! i did get an A in the class, however, so i guess chef liked them. that poor man had to taste 20 different batches each of mayo and hollandaise that day, and i didn't see him spit anything out. god bless him.