Mayonnaise is one of the many foods that is referred to as an emulsion. An emulsion is a combination of two unlike components. According to Julia Child, mayonnaise is also something every cook must confidently and rapidly whip up on command with nary a qualm, because it is one of the elemental cookery procedures.
The Science of Mayonnaise: Before attempting to make homemade mayonnaise, it is important to understand just how mayonnaise works. Mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil in lemon juice that has been stabilized by the molecule lecithin found in the egg yolks. The key to making mayonnaise is to avoid having the components of the emulsion separate back into their individual components. This is called “turned” or “broken” mayonnaise. No matter how long you mix the oil and lemon juice together, it will always separate into a gooey mess unless the egg yolk is added as a stabilizer.
Why To Make Your Own Mayonnaise: There are two (2) main reasons for making your own mayonnaise – freshness and flavor. Homemade mayonnaise is fast and easy to make in a blender or food processor. It takes less than 5 minutes to make.
Recipe yields: approximately 2 to 2 1/4 cups
Prep time: 5 min
2 egg yolks, room temperature*
1 whole egg, room temperature*
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch freshly-ground white pepper
Up to 2 cups vegetable oil or pure olive oil (all one or a mixture)**
* Since raw eggs are being use, only use the freshest eggs you can buy (the fresher, the better). As an egg ages, lecithin, a protein that acts as the central emulsifying agent, breaks down and the power of the egg yolk to stabilize the mayonnaise weakens. You may also use pasteurized eggs.
** For a basic mayonnaise, use an oil with a mild flavor that won’t overpower the other ingredients. If you plan to refrigerate your mayonnaise, then choose a refined oil such as pure olive oil or sunflower oil. An unrefined oil, such as extra virgin olive oil, will solidify when chilled and cause separation later as it returns to room temperature.
Put the egg yolks, egg, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and white pepper in the work bowl of the food processor; process for 10 seconds or more, until creamy.
With the food processor running continuously, pour in the oil very slowly in driblets at first, to start the emulsion process. NOTE: Add 10 to 15% of the oil at this time. The first addition should be small and gradual. Wait about 30 second between additions.
When the sauce has definitely thickened, you may add the oil in a thin stream. Do not stop the machine at this point, but cease pouring every few seconds to be sure the oil is being absorbed. NOTE: Add about 50% of the oil at this time.
Then continue until the remaining 1 1/2 cups of oil are incorporated. NOTE: You may not need to use all the remaining oil at this time.
Stop the machine and check the mayonnaise for taste and consistency. Adjust the seasonings and, if the mayonnaise is very thick, process in drops of lemon juice or warm water to thin. The mayonnaise may be used at this point, or you can process in some of the remaining oil for a thicker sauce.
Transfer the finished mayonnaise to a bowl. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for a good week.
Precautions for Preparing Mayonnaise:
IMPORTANT: All the ingredients must be at room temperature. If necessary, eggs may be immersed in warm water for 10 minutes to bring them up to temperature before breaking them into the blender jar.
Since raw eggs are being use, only use the freshest eggs you can buy (the fresher, the better). As an egg ages, lecithin, a protein that acts as the central emulsifying agent, breaks down and the power of the egg yolk to stabilize the mayonnaise weakens. You may also use pasteurized eggs.
Eggs keep the fat (oil) and the liquid (vinegar or lemon juice) of the mayonnaise evenly blended together. If egg yolks weren’t used to emulsify the mayonnaise, the heavier liquid would sink and the lighter fat would float just as they do in vinegar and oil dressing.
Never use aluminum bowls or saucepans to prepare mayonnaise, as they will turn the mayonnaise gray. Stainless steel, enameled, plastic (food processor) or glass may be used.
Add the oil very slowly, especially at the beginning.
Since homemade mayonnaise has fresh eggs in it, the mayonnaise should not be left at room temperature for more than a couple hours, as food poisoning is always a concern.
Repairing “Turned” or “Broken” Mayonnaise:
If mayonnaise breaks at any point, it can be brought back together by beating the broken mixture bit by bit into a fresh egg yolk.
As soon as this new mixture begins to thicken, the broken mayonnaise can be added more quickly.
Mayonnaise frequently breaks when stored overnight in the refrigerator and should be reconstituted before being used.