The very first thing you need to do is to throw that jar of mayonnaise away. Yeah, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t taste anything like a real mayonnaise. I have never understood why anyone would buy mayo in a jar, when it can be made in 5 minutes with a few ingredients most people have in their kitchen at anyway. And it won’t split either, if you follow a few simple tricks. So let’s get started.
To make mayonnaise, you will need:
- 1 egg yolk, preferably fresh
- 1 level tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 200ml canola oil
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- white pepper
- a pinch of sugar
And that’s it. Start by mixing the egg yolk with the mustard in a bowl. Leave this to stand for a minute. This is trick #1 to get a good stable emulsion going. And just in case you didn’t realise it, mayonnaise is the ultimate emulsion sauce, in which oil droplets are suspended in a cloud of egg yolk. How much oil can you pour into one yolk before it gives up and can’t take it anymore? According to Harold McGee, the God of kitchen science, it should easily hold 24 litres, but even he only tested the theory to 2.5 litres. No matter how much it is, there is very little likelihood of your mayo splitting because you added too much oil. Now that’s comforting to know. (You don’t have to take my word for it either: http://www.vendian.org/envelope/dir1/mayo.html#:~:text=Still%2C%20there%20is%20one%20reason,emulsify%202%20cups%20of%20oil.)
Now the advice to pour the oil in a slow, steady stream has fortunately been debunked, because it is a recipe for disaster. Instead (and this is trick#2), pour a little bit of oil into the egg mustard mix and then whisk it in until you get a smooth emulsion. Continue in the same way. Every time you add oil, you can add a little more than the time before and by the end of it, you could pour a decent oil slick on the emulsion and then whisk it in without any danger of the thing splitting. But of course it’s better not to try how far you can push this idea.
Pour, whisk, pour whisk until about 150ml of your 200ml oil has been used up. You should have quite a stiff mayo by now. This is the point at which I add the vinegar and that’s trick #3. Many recipes tell you to add the vinegar at the beginning, but that makes it harder to get that first all important emulsion going. The vinegar will make your mayonnaise much thinner, but fret not. Just keep adding the rest of the oil and your mayo will stiffen up again.
The last thing for you to do is to season. One word of advice here: Salt slowly and in little steps, then wait for 2 minutes, whisk again and taste. Reason? Salt takes much longer to dissolve in oil than in water, so if you season, taste and season again, you’ll think all is well, but five minutes later your mayo will have become inedibly salty. I use white pepper because I don’t like the black spots of milled pepper, but the choice is yours! The sugar really helps bring out the flavour without actually making the mayo sweet, but again, the choice is yours. The choice of vinegar is a personal one. I use white or red wine, but you could use champagne vinegar. I like cider vinegar in my mayo as well, because it gives a nice earthy flavour. Balsamic on the other hand is a very bad idea, as it most often is.
As for the quantity of vinegar, you will need to adjust this, depending on the acidity of the vinegar you are using, but a tablespoonful is normally just fine.
One last word about oil; if you think olive oil will make a better mayo, you are very much mistaken. You can replace 10%-20% of the total oil with a more flavourful thing, but tread with caution. I like to stay with a clean, mostly flavourless oil, because what was an attractive depth in an olive oil soon becomes cloying or unpleasantly sharp in a mayonnaise. As for Truffle oil, it’s a disgusting awful thing at the best of times and the thought of it in a mayonnaise positively makes me retch, but hey; there’s no accounting for taste.