For years, I’ve been reading food books in which homemade mayonnaise is described in rapt, nearly euphoric terms. I recently read an essay (did anyone else read this? Where was it? Thanks to Taylor, the story has been found.) in which a woman describes how her aunt was known for her pimento cheese sandwiches and brought them to every major event in her community. The first step in making these beloved sandwiches was whisking the mayonnaise together from scratch. The sandwich maker stated plainly that the sandwiches weren’t worth preparing if you were going to resort to Hellman’s or Duke’s.
Thinking about homemade mayo, I’m also reminded of an essay in Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte, in which she recalls picking up Julia Child from the airport in France and they eat oeufs mayonnaise together at a small countryside cafe. The description of Child happily eating freshly made mayonnaise on eggs, french fries, baguette and from the tips of her fingers has always delighted me.
However, despite all these lovely literary evocations, until tonight I had never before made mayonnaise on my own. I’ve been talking about it for months, mentioning it as a possible Fork You topic, without settling down and trying it in my own kitchen. I followed a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, as I’ve always loved the way she writes about food, her instructions made me feel calm instead of anxious. I also was comforted by the fact that she offered several variations on how to save your mayo if it broke.
Mine did break at first, primarily because I chose to be lazy and use my KitchenAid mixer’s whisk to do the work (Nigella does offer it as an option, but also states that she always does it by hand). As I incorporated the olive oil, my burgeoning mayonnaise couldn’t hold another drop and became gloppy and loose. I tried Nigella’s suggestion of adding couple of drops of boiling water, but that did nothing to reconstitute it, so I broke open another egg, separated it and slowly incorporated my broken mayo into that yolk, hand-whisking it in. That worked perfect and I was rewarded with gorgeous, creamy mayonnaise. I used some to make egg salad, which I ate on top of a pile of baby arugula for dinner (Scott’s away and so my meals have become less structured in his absence).
I now have a half-filled pint jar of really delicious, homemade mayonnaise in my fridge. I think tomorrow night I’ll stir some minced garlic into some and turn it into aioli.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cup peanut or sunflower oil
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lemon or more to taste
- salt and freshly milled white pepper I hate white pepper, so I used black, giving my mayo character in the process
- Fill the bowl you’re planning to whisk the eggs in with hot tap water and place the eggs in it (room temperature eggs should help prevent your mayonnaise from breaking). Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the eggs, empty the bowl and dry it well. Separate the eggs, stashing the whites in the fridge or freezer for future use and putting the yolks in the bowl.
- Add the pinch of salt and begin whisking. After a minute or two, start adding the peanut/sunflower oil drop by tiny drop, making sure that each drop is incorporated prior to adding the next one. Keep going like this until it begins to look recognizably like mayonnaise and you have approximately 2-3 tablespoons in the bowl. You can begin to add the oil in slightly larger quantities, but still take it slow.
- Once all the oil is incorporated, add the lemon juice, more salt and a bit of pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. And that’s it!
- If the mayo breaks, try adding a few drops of boiling water and then whisk vigoriously. If that doesn’t work, separate another egg and put the yolk in another bowl. Whisk it like you did the initial egg yolks and then slowly work the broken mayo into the yolk. Add a bit more oil to get it to the right consistency.
I believe it was this story you read (first story on page). As a mayo-lover, I am fanatical about Duke’s, the next best thing to homemade…’cause, really, making your own mayo every time you want a sandwich just isn’t going to happen. But I’d certainly lap your homemade mayo up!
Was it as tasty and euphoric as you were hoping for? I have yet to try made-at-home-mayo, but I’m sure the taste and texture are different. Are they insanely, 100%, incredibly better?
Taylor, yes! That’s the story I was thinking of. Thank you! Personally, I’m with you, I’m not going to make homemade mayo every time the urge for a sandwich strikes, but I can see how it could make basic foods feel special on occasion.
Holly, it was pretty darn good. I ate a fair amount in dabs and globs as I cleaned up, just because I couldn’t bear to let it go to waste. That said, if you’re someone who doesn’t like mayonnaise, I don’t think that homemade is going to drastically change your mind.
The food processor will never let you down when it comes to mayonnaise-making. But doing it by hand will certainly give you a better arm work-out.
e, I had actually intended to use the food processor for mayo making, but as I read the recipe I had picked out, it was not kind to processor-made mayo. So I didn’t use it, thus setting myself up for initial failure.
I’ve also never attempted the homemade mayo experiment, but I love that you used Nigella Lawson’s recipe. I completely agree with you about how the structure and elegance in her descriptions completely put you at ease when you’re using her recipes. Now I just have to find the time to make some homemade mayo of my own.
Erin, if you have a mayo-heavy recipe planned, then making your own is totally worth it (it was far easier than I expected it to be, as well).
I’ve been a big fan of Nigella Lawson since I first saw Nigella Bites on Bravo in January of 2002 (I had just moved to Philadelphia and was living on my grandmother’s couch, and would watch after she went to bed at night). She is still a favorite.
What does it mean for mayonnaise to “break”? I take it to mean that it separates out or something, but I’m really not sure…
My mom used to make homemade mayo often, putting it in potato salad, dipping artichoke leaves in it, or just using it on a sandwich. I have only done it successfully once. But I might try more this summer. I think of making mayonnaise as a summer thing, since that is when I remember my mom making it when I was living at home.
Thad, when mayonnaise breaks, it goes from being a creamy, very smooth emulsion to curds swimming in pools of oil. While broken mayo doesn’t actually taste all that bad (yes, I tasted it last night), it really doesn’t look good and certainly wouldn’t be of any use on a sandwich.
Fran, artichoke leaves dipped in mayo is one of my favorite meals. We ate it a lot when I was a kid, and I try to have it a couple of times a season now that I cook for myself.
I’m so impressed. It doesn’t matter that it took you a long time to get to it – it’s so cool that you did! I’m going to have to try this some time.
Just for future reference, there are three reasons why mayo can break.
1. Oil is incorporated too fast. (Most common). This usually happens at the beginning, when you have to add the oil really slowly. Also, if you find your mayo is getting too thick, loosen it up with a little lemon juice before continuing to add more oil. This will also help combat breakage.
2. Your ingredients are too cold. If your eggs are straight out of the fridge, your mayo is more likely to break. Let them warm up a bit before using.
3. Your ingredients are too warm. If you live in an extremely warm area and don’t use air conditioning (or work in a hot kitchen), this could also cause broken mayo. It’s all about balance.
I’m in culinary school, and for some reason, I had more trouble with mayo than anything else. I feel like I have it down to an art at this point!
Liz, thanks so much for the explanation! As I was making mayo, I definitely got too excited in my oil adding, which I’m sure is why it broke.
No problem! When the chef explained what could go wrong in detail, I found it helped me to get it right.
I also like to start mine with a little Dijon mustard when I’m whisking the egg yolks to loosen them up before adding the oil. It just adds a little “something.”
Liz: Mustard is also an emulsion stabilizer, so the mayo is a lot less likely to break when you put some in. It’s not just for flavor!
I just plop all the ingredients in a pint jar, insert an immersion blender, turn it on, and slowly raise it to the top, blending as it rises – instant mayo!
That’s what I do, too, Karen…easy peasy, and never a “broken” mayonnaise!
How long will it keep?
A blender works just fine. I add dry mustard, salt & pepper, and lemon juice to the egg yolk before slowly adding the oil.
Is there any way to preserve home made mayo? I would think canning it would just solidify it?
There is no way that I know of. It’s a low acid food, so in theory you’d have to pressure can it. But mayonnaise would never hold up under all that heat and pressure.
I’m from Peru and grew up with home made mayo. Now I live in NY and always make my own. I can’t get used to buying it at the store. The flavor is so different. I make it once a month aprox. and it lasts just fine when refrigerated. There are so many variations you can make with it. I make it as follows:
a tsp of dijon mustard
splash of white vinager
splash of lime juice
1 clove of garlic
and once is blending I add the oil slowly until is the right consistency.
When I want a different flavor I add lots of basil, and/or jalapenos with the rest of the ingredients before I start adding the oil. When adding leaves you have to let it blend well first.
It’s so worth it!
I didn’t have mayo and I wanted to make tuna fish sandwiches, in the end I made the mayo it came out great!!
I did add 3 egg yolks and 1 1/2 cups of olive and vegetable oil, also some fresh crushed garlic
thanks for the tutorial!