Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Home-Made Mayonnaise (A Failed Attempt)

Inspired by a remarkably uncomplicated process of grinding peanuts into smooth and supple butter, I decided to take on a new challenge and make my own version of Hellmann's mayonnaise. 

Nowadays, when grocery stores are filled with a packaged parody on food, finding good-quality condiments can be exhausting, so much so that mayonnaise and mustard are the only spreads I purchase on the regular basis. 

On occasion, my husband insists on stocking up on ketchup, BBQ sauce and the sweet chilly sauce- the latter goes rather well with chicken- but even those must meet strict criteria imposed by the slightly obsessive-compulsive head of our household's nutrition department. 

Hellmann's has always been my choice of mayonnaise, based on its original taste and natural ingredients besides calcium disodium EDTA said to protect the flavour and canola oil that probably comes from genetically modified canola, so I used it as a template for my own creation. I pulled out a plastic jar with a recognizable blue-and-yellow label and familiarized myself with the list of ingredients. Right away, I knew I had all the basic ingredients- plant oil, eggs, vinegar, salt and lemon juice- and without much thought, I combined all in my Magic Bullet and began the blending process. 

Except neither of the ingredients agreed to work together, resulting in a visually unpleasant yellow concoction. Patience is a virtue, and to my deepest regret, I did not possess a single shred of it. I searched the Internet for general guidance on the whipping process and came across a short post by Molly Wizenberg that provided a set of detailed whisking instructions. Although already aware of the fact that mayonnaise is an emulsion- a mixture of two or more liquids otherwise immiscible- I disregarded its importance in achieving the final product. 

Humbled by the initial failure, I surrounded myself with the main ingredients and read the instructions more carefully. A short note suggested to use pasteurized eggs, which sparked a series of searches for egg pasteurization process and revealing the need for a cooking thermometre. Described in great detail, the process seemed overwhelming, simply because I was unable to precisely measure the water temperature, but the effort paid off, leaving me with a perfectly liquid yet disinfected egg*. 

In a tall measuring cup, I combined an egg yolk, 1/3 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of lemon juice, 1/3 tsp of Dijon mustard and 2/3 tsp of white vinegar, then used a basic mixer to combine the ingredients. Within a few seconds, the mixture was uniform and oil could now be added. For the first third of a cup- a total of 2/3 cup was called for- I used grape seed oil, pouring it in a thin steady stream right onto working beaters. The process took about 5 minutes, resulting in a bright yellow, and now thicker, emulsion. 

It was now time to pour in the remaining half a cup, and in this instance I used olive oil. The process of mixing took 8 more minutes and yielded a thick, somewhat gelatinous, substance. Due to a brighter orange free-run egg yolk and the darker colour of extra-virgin olive oil, the mixture maintained its yellow, although somewhat faded, colour. I transferred it into a smaller container, tasted and compared it with Hellmann's and knew I made at least three mistakes. The consistency- the final product appeared thicker than desired- could be adjusted by adding more lemon juice or warm water, but the taste and smell of a touch too much Dijon and olive oil could only be remedied in my next attempt at mayo making. 

Nonetheless, the spread proved quite useful in salads, sandwiches and what I decided to call a Midday Medley- a healthful combination of meat and vegetables coated with mayonnaise and baked in the oven. As it turned out, my mistakes lead me to a better understanding of this ancient condiment and a few successful dishes along the way!

*The March 11, 2011 post in Baking Bites, How to Pasteurize Eggs at Home, suggests placing eggs in a pot filled with water and fitted with a digital thermometer, then bringing the water temperature up to 140°F and keeping it there for a minimum of 3 minutes. Since I was not sure of the temperature of my water, I waited 4.5 minutes, constantly stirring and moving the egg around for consistent treatment.  

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