February 2012 Challenge: Homemade Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a condiment love of mine. And for years I’ve heard the deliciousness of homemade mayonnaise lauded, but I always feared making it from scratch. Eight pages of description plus alternates in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is enough to scare anyone off. But one weekend, I decided it was time.

I was encouraged when I read the lines from Julia Child, “But as the egg yolks do not have to be warmed, the sauce is that much simpler to make than hollandaise.” But then I really got into reading the recipe and wondered if this was really a good idea.

One thing you can say about MTAOFC is that each recipe is greatly researched, so it is necessary to read the recipe over, maybe even several times, before forging through. Alternative instructions are given for hand-beaten mayonnaise and one with an electric blender; I chose to go the hand-beaten route. (Note: You may want to go into training before making this by hand; my arm was KILLING me, and even though I wasn’t supposed to stop whisking, I had to once in a while to let my arm rest!)

While this was a success as a sauce, don’t expect this to look like a bowlful of Hellman’s like I was. It is smooth, bright yellow, and creamy, resembling hollandaise sauce with the consistency of a thin pudding or pancake batter. And the flavor, to me, was not what I was expecting–or particularly liked. I used all extra virgin olive oil, and I should have used a mixture, which is an option. Using all olive oil, especially extra virgin, gave the sauce an overpowering taste; additional vinegar and mustard didn’t blend the flavor. Also, admittedly, I really wasn’t sure what to do with this. You certainly can’t spread this on a sandwich, this is really as a topping for fish, hors d’oeuvres, and meats. Maybe as a topping for some roasted vegetables. So while I am proud this recipe was successful, next time I will make a smaller batch and a dinner menu so it can be used, and fiddle with the ingredients, lemon juice instead of vinegar, dried mustard instead of prepared, canola oil instead of olive.

Here are the directions for about 2 cups hand-beaten mayonnaise

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck. Copyright 1961.

Note: Unlike typical recipes, this cookbook has side-by-side ingredients to directions; I’ve divided this into parts, to make it easy for you.

Part I
• A round-bottomed, 2 ½- to 3-quart glazed pottery, glass, or stainless-steel mixing bowl. Set it in a heavy casserole or saucepan to keep it from slipping. (Cook’s Note: I set it on a plastic cutting board and it was fine.)
• 3 egg yolks
• A large wire whip

Warm the bowl in hot water. Dry it. Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.

Part II
• 1 TB wine vinegar or lemon juice
• ½ tsp salt
• ⅓ tsp dry or prepared mustard

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt, and mustard. Beat for 30 seconds more.

Part III
1 ½ to 2 ¼ cups of olive oil, salad oil, or a mixture of each. If the oil is cold, heat it to tepid; and if you are a novice, use the minimum amount.

The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil, and while it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. A speed of 2 strokes per second is fast enough. You can switch hands or switch directions, it makes no difference as long as you beat constantly. Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil. After ⅓ to ½ cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis is over. The beating arm may rest a moment. (Cook’s Note: FINALLY!) Then beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.

Part IV
• Drops of wine vinegar or lemon juice as needed

When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to think it out. Then continue with the oil.

Part V
• 2 TB boiling water
• Vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and mustard

Beat the boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. Season to taste.

* * * * *
If the sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it closely so a skin will not form on its surface. 

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