Mayonnaise is the mother of all sauces… well almost!
Mayonnaise is the mother of cold emulsions!
Now we are not talking about that white gunk you get in a jar, ooooh no! (That is about as close to real mayonnaise, as tofu is to foie gras!) If you look at the ingredients on one of these jars you bound to find a list of at least 10 ingredients! Real mayonnaise is made from just 4; egg yolks, mustard, oil and vinegar or lemon juice.
Mayonnaise is at it’s heart a cold emulsion sauce. An emulsion sauce is made up from two liquids that do not normally mix. Usually some kind of oil and liquid, that is brought together with vigorous beating. The vigorous beating is important, as the oil must be broken up into tiny droplets and suspended in the liquid. The liquid in this case being the egg yolks, as they are made up of about half water!
This presents us with an interesting challenge; unlike other sauces, an emulsion sauce is very unstable. If you whisk oil and water together in a bowl, the mixture may hold tiny droplets of oil in the liquid for a short while, but will soon revert back to it’s original state; two liquids that do not mix! This means we not only have to successfully create an emulsion, but we also have to stopthe emulsion from coming undone by the basic nature of the two liquid’s incompatibility. We can achieve this by using and emulsifier or stabiliser, (for Mayonnaise we use mustard) which makes it much easier to create a smooth, silky emulsion.
Now we can’t rush to get a perfectly stable emulsion. A beautiful, silky mayonnaise takes time, so we need to be patient! We are going to be whisking the oil into our egg yolks, bit by bit whisking thoroughly between each addition, in order to form a good emulsion. Too much oil, too soon, and the whole mix will split/curdle and we will have to start all over. (Actually I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for correcting a split mayonnaise right down below)
We promise, making mayonnaise is not as scary as it sounds! It does take a little patience and a little practice, but once you’ve mastered it, and tasted it, you’ll never want to buy mayonnaise in a jar ever again.
— Al Brady