Monday, October 22, 2007

Homemade Mayo

Jonathan's brother, Andy, recently embarked on the culinary adventure of making homemade mayonnaise. He, like me, has noticed a cultural trend that stigmatizes mayonnaise, causing yuppies and calorie-conscious gym-goers alike to claim that they "hate" mayonnaise, and that it "grosses them out." As both a yuppie and a calorie-conscious gym-goer, I must admit that I generally abstain from mayonnaise. However, I will not go so far as to say I hate it, and I certainly appreciate that the non-conformists among us are willing to whip up a homemade batch now and again.

For those of you unfamiliar with the process of making homemade mayonnaise, the key element is emulsion. Since mayonnaise is a an emulsion of vinegar and fat (oil, egg yolk), careful precision is necessary while mixing the ingredients. Andy explains his experience below:

The first step is combining together in a bowl:

2 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. lemon juice
Minced garlic, to taste
Salt, to taste (1-2 tsp.)
1 egg yolk

Next, beat this concoction with a whisk until it is completely mixed. Now comes the hard part:

Add the oil (about 3/4c.). This must be done quite literally one drop at a time. With the addition of each drop, you have to demonically whip the concoction to force air into it. Once you've worked a decent amount of the oil into the emulsion, you can start adding the oil 2-3 drops at a time. On our first go we whipped for a while and produced a light liquid - nothing near mayo. In an act of desperation we dumped the mixture into the blender, which, miraculously, did the trick. However, to test the method, we made a second batch that started in the blender, and this didn't fare as well. Not surprisingly, many online recipes warn readers about the arm-soreness related to making mayonnaise.

Fortunately, it's easy to tell whether you've succeeded in creating the proper mayo emulsion. After adding the oil one of two things will happen: 1) Just when you think your arm will fall off, your emulsion will magically turn into real, live, mayonnaise. This is success. 2) Just when you think your arm will fall off, your emulsion will continue to look like a thin, unappetizing liquid. This is failure. Toss it, and start again, preferably with someone else doing the whisking this time.

According to Jonathan, when asked whether homemade mayonnaise was worth the effort, when there are so many other things to make, Andy replied that "only someone who has never tried homemade mayonnaise would ask that question."

It's probably not an everyday project, but apparently worth it on special occasions. And, to appease those who are appalled by the unhealthiness of recent posts (honest-to-goodness ice cream, while delicious, is best consumed in moderation), we will be posting some healthier recipes soon. I promise.

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