RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Why dress your fresh local veggies with a tasteless, processed, mass-market spread? Making your own mayo and salad dressings from scratch is quick, it lets you use the healthiest ingredients, and the results taste better than anything that comes in a bottle. Basic vinaigrette recipes abound in most cookbooks, but when you're craving something creamy, such as a ranch or blue cheese dressing, I've got some solutions for you.
Mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based salad dressings (which is what ranch and blue cheese dressings are) started with the French, but U.S. cooks and sandwich fans have enthusiastically embraced them as our own. However, since commercial shelf-stable mayo was introduced a century ago, most people have forgotten how easy it is to make homemade mayonnaise. Basically, it's just oil blended with egg yolk so that the tiny oil droplets get suspended in the egg and the mixture becomes uniform and creamy (this process is known as emulsification). Once you learn how to make it, your options for sandwich toppings and salad dressings are endless. (By the way, it's easier than you think to make your own ketchup and other condiments, too.)
Basic Homemade Mayonnaise
(makes about 1 cup; double the ingredients if you need more)
1 whole organic egg, pasture-raised if possible, or 2 egg yolks (see note below)
¼ teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne powder or ground black pepper (optional)
1 Tablespoon vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice
¾ to 1 cup mild-flavored organic vegetable oil, such as canola or grapeseed
Combine everything except the oil in small mixing bowl, and beat well with a wire whisk or immersion blender. Add ¼ cup oil and beat well, then continue adding oil one small splash at a time, beating in each addition well, until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. You may not need the full cup of oil—if you add too much, the mayonnaise may get runny and even start to separate. So stop adding oil when the texture is right. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired.
You can also make mayonnaise in a blender or small food processor. Just drizzle the oil in a steady stream while the machine is running. Serve immediately or transfer your finished mayonnaise to a glass jar with a tight lid (if you're using an immersion blender, save yourself some time, and a dish to wash, by making the mayonnaise right in a glass pint jar). Store in the fridge for up to two weeks; mayonnaise doesn't freeze well.
Miraculous Whip: If that other famous mayo-like spread is your cup of tea, increase the dry mustard to 1 teaspoon and the salt to ½ teaspoon, halve the amount of lemon juice or white vinegar you use, add 2 teaspoons of sugar, and skip the pepper. Hard to beat with cold wedges of iceberg lettuce!
Note: Consuming foods that contain raw egg carries a small risk of foodborne illness. Using only fresh, uncracked eggs, and being sure to always include the vinegar or citrus juice to acidify the mayonnaise, as well as storing the finished spread in the refrigerator, will help to reduce the risk. If you are concerned about using raw eggs (people with immune problems, small children, elders, and pregnant women are most vulnerable), you can pasteurize your eggs first. Chefs commonly used this method, and while it may not be 100 percent effective, it will certainly knock out anything lurking on or in the pores of the eggshell, which is where most nasty germs are likely to be.
To pasteurize whole eggs, place intact eggs in a saucepan of cold water deep enough to have an inch of water over the top of the eggs. Put it on the stove and slowly raise the temperature of the water to at least 140°F, but not hotter than 142°F (you need an accurate thermometer for this). Maintain that temperature for 3 minutes (large eggs) to 5 minutes (jumbo eggs). Cool eggs in cold water and either use immediately or store them in the fridge until needed.