© Denzil Green
Mayonnaise is a very thick, creamy sauce served at room temperature or chilled. It can be used as a sauce, a dressing, and or a condiment.
It is made from oil and raw egg with something acidic added such as vinegar or lemon. The oil and the vinegar would normally separate. However, lecithin in the egg yolk coats the drops of oil, and the egg yolks emulsify, binding the oil and the vinegar together. The mixture is seasoned with spices, salt and sugar.
Mayonnaise is now usually bought instead of made. While purists sniff at the idea of bottled mayonnaise, which was introduced around the start of the 1900s, had they been housewives back then in a kitchen with no conveniences including no running water or stoves that flicked off and on, they'd have welcomed ready-made mayonnaise with open arms, too. While some cooks continue decade after decade to wax lyrical about proper homemade mayonnaise, the fact is that people are so accustomed now to commercial mayonnaise that the homemade doesn't taste right to them.
In the Southern US, people are passionate about the brand called "Blue Plate Mayonnaise."
Mayonnaise was introduced into Japan in the 1920s and has now become ubiquitous there, appearing even in sushi bars.
Using verjuice instead of lemon juice or vinegar in your mayonnaise recipes can give a subtler taste.
Commercial mayonnaise is made from pasteurized eggs, and contains enough acids (and salt) to make an inhospitable environment for bacterial growth (and even kill bacteria.)
It is homemade mayonnaise that is the danger when let stand.
There might be times when purism in food standards makes you feel good about yourself: having dispatched your nearest and dearest to hospital beds with salmonella because of your standards might not be one of those times.
To be clear, commercial mayonnaise actually retards spoilage of foods and development of harmful micro-organisms.
- Invented in France in 1756 to commemorate the capture from the English of St Philip's in Mahón, the capital of the island of Minorca off Spain.
- One of the two commanders on the French side was Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu (who, though this may be just spurious gossip, was known to throw nude dinner parties). His chef invented the sauce there, calling it "sauce mahonnaise."
- Same as above, but the chef invented the sauce out of what was to hand at a place where there had just been a siege, rather than necessarily trying to create a special dish to commemorate a victory.
- The Duke of Richelieu landed. They were foraging for food. A local farmer on the island who wanted to impress him, but who had only bread, a few eggs, and oil, made up for the Duke a sauce that had been made on the island for many generations: olive egg with egg yolk and a squirt of lemon juice from the trees that grew there. The Duke liked the sauce, and had his chef improve on it; it was further improved by cooks back in Paris.
- More likely the sauce had been made for some time in Spain, and was picked up by the chef.
There are at least 10 other versions and variations trying to explain its origin.
Literature & Lore
"Dans ce pay-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres." (In this country it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others.) -- Candide, Chapter 23, Voltaire.
Picnic and Food Safety Reminders: Don't Hold the Mayo. The Association for Dressings and Sauces. Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved October 2010 from http://www.dressings-sauces.org/foodsafety_picnic.html
MayonnaiseAioli à la greque; Aioli Garni; Aioli; Blender Mayonnaise Recipe; Hellmann's Mayonnaise; Horseradish Mayonnaise; Mayonnaise; Miracle Whip; Richard C. Hellmann
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