Mayonnaise – You’re the Sauce!

February 12, 2019 in Health, Mediterranean by Joyce Bunderson

The English Poet, Thomas Tusser is credited to have said; “Make hunger thy sauce, as a medicine for health.” I think what that is meant to denote is: if you’re hungry enough you’ll eat what is served no matter how plain it is; also, eat to provide the nutrients that keep you healthy, not for pleasure. I have quite a bit of English ancestry; but probably slightly more French (especially if you count the “English” that resulted from the Norman Conquest.) But back to sauce! Let’s face it, the English are known for many wonderful things, but cooking is not the top of the list. English food is often delicious, but simple and hearty. Daniel Boulud, a famous French chef and restaurateur in America and around the world, said; “Sauce is certainly ancestral to French cooking. The technique is very tricky, but it’s also very fundamental.”

There seems to be various stories of where mayonnaise began (even the ancient Egyptians and Romans); and there doesn’t seem to be any consensus about which story is fact. For those of us who have appreciated the culinary skills of the French, I’m going to err on the side of the French as to where mayonnaise began. One of the stories goes clear back to 1756 when the French were celebrating a victory over Mahon a city on an small Mediterranean island a little southeast of present day Barcelona, Spain. The story goes that the Duke’s chef had no cream and substituted olive oil, naming the sauce “Mahonnaise.” Some time around 1800, Marie-Antoine Careme, “The King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings,” created a lighter version of mayonnaise using vegetable oil instead of crème.

The funny thing about the history of mayonnaise is that in America it takes a big twist to a 1903 German emigrant to New York City. Richard Hellmann’s wife made the mayonnaise used at their deli and people enjoyed the mayo so much that he began selling the mayo in wooden boats – eventually selling it in jars. From 1912 to today, Hellmann’s was acquired by Best Foods, Inc., and Best Foods Inc was eventually, acquired by Unilever, an enormous Anglo-Dutch multinational corporation, in 2000. However we got mayonnaise, I’m full of gratitude for all involved.

Sure I know that there are lovers and haters of mayonnaise; and even those that are afraid of its fat; but if you’re a cook having mayonnaise in a jar is quite the time saver.

Of course, there are sauces unlimited that can be purchased today as ready to use: (spaghetti sauce; Hollandaise sauce; Alfredo sauce; soy sauce; hot sauce; applesauce; marinara sauce; Tabasco; Worcestershire sauce; curry sauces; catsup; tartar sauce; cocktail sauce; Béchamel; Veloute; sweet sauces; brown sauces; butter sauces; white sauces and of course, secret sauce. That’s a start.) But mayonnaise is a parent of sauces; so let me share a bit about it.

Because mayonnaise is an emulsion, it requires whipping and whipping to make a sizable batch. If you’re not a cook, you may have never felt the burn in your bicep. Cooks have been celebrating the ease of opening the jar for over a hundred years; since the first days that mayonnaise could be purchased. But now days when many people own food processors; there’s no worry about running out of mayonnaise. You can whip up a batch of mayo in minutes. Like Daniel Boulud said, it is a little tricky; but if you know the tricks you can make it the way you like. The biggest trick is not to add too much oil in the beginning because your mayo will “split” or “separate.” Splitting can also happen in the fridge, if you don’t completely emulsify it. What that means is that it kind of curdles into a lumpy mess. You can maybe save your split mess, by blending again with a few drops more lemon juice or water. But if you follow directions you probably won’t have to deal with this problem.

The cool thing about making your own mayo is that you can find egg-free recipes, if you’re a vegan; olive oil recipes, if olive oil is your oil of choice; or maybe avocado oil; or some combination of mustard and mayo; or have actual control of the eggs used in making the mayo.

There are many recipes and YouTube demos for making mayo. I’m only going to include three here:

  1. The first is from a cute young couple; Adam and Joanne, of Inspired Their method is a no whisking, fail proof mayo. What a guarantee!
  2. The second is famous chef Gordon Ramsay’s (award-winning famous British chef) method – also using a food processor.
  3. The last is Jamie Oliver’s method (another famous chef and restaurateur); whisking it by hand with vinegar or both lemon juice and vinegar.

Did you think that I would never make it to a few words about the nutrition of mayo?

  • Sure, you can get low fat mayo; my taste buds rebelled; but maybe the 15 calories instead of the regular 90 to 100 calories per tablespoon is worth the loss of better flavor for some. The mayos with 60 calories have a better flavor. You’ll have to experiment with your own taste buds. You can still get the flavor of the full fat mayo, by replacing part of the mayo with lemon juice; pickle juice or Greek yogurt.
  • If you’re a vegetarian, but not really a vegan; or you’re trying to not consume too much cholesterol, you may be tempted to buy the egg-free vegan version of mayo. But check out the amount of egg in the regular mayo before you spend extra at the market for less egg. There’s only 5 mg of cholesterol in a tablespoon of the full fat and egg recipe of Best Foods/Hellmann’s. Oil and water are the first ingredients in the mayo (mostly oil and water, then eggs). One large egg has 185 mg of cholesterol. So, one egg makes 37 servings of commercial regular mayo; by the way there are only 30 servings in the one jar of mayo.
  • If you’re concerned about how the chicken is treated that produces the one egg that makes 37 servings (81% of one egg that makes one jar). Some mayo brands like Kraft (who plaster on the front of the jar: “Made with cage free whole eggs.” commit to only use 65% cage free eggs of that 81% of one egg. Just under a half (49%) of one cage free egg per jar.
  • If you’re trying to keep your saturated fat under control, realize that mayo only has about 1.5 grams of saturated fat (for the full fat version) per serving. It’s mostly oil and water, with a little egg, vinegar or lemon juice (if you make it yourself) and salt. The salt is surprisingly low; most brands are between 70 to 130 milligrams – not bad. Even the added sugar is less than half a gram per tablespoon, which is so insignificant that it shows up as zero added sugar on the label.
  • One cool thing about mayo is that the usual oil is soybean; and that, of course, is an unsaturated fat. If you’re choosing mayo made with avocado oil (usually a small jar [12 oz.] can cost between $7 to $10); or canola oil; you have to be fairly dedicated to that purchase because of the price. Two thoughts: One, check the label; some state in great big letters on the front of the jar, an oil you might recognize as expensive; then on the back is the additional fact that it is blended with another cheaper oil. Don’t forget that the first item on the list is, by weight, the most abundant ingredient in the jar. So if it’s blended with soy oil, you’re probably getting mostly soy oil anyway. Second, think about your application. If you’re just using a couple of teaspoons (2/3 serving) of mayo on your sandwich; is it really worth the extra money? I use some of my homemade pickle relish and some store bought mayo to make tartar sauce; I don’t think the price of the bit of oil in the specialty mayo is worth the price difference. The same goes for whisking a tad of mayo into your homemade salad dressing to add a little creaminess and emulsify it a bit (keep it from separating/splitting). In this circumstance, it’s really not worth the extra price – in my mind.
  • Lastly, mayo is actually a helpful ingredient in egg salads and chicken salads. Contrary to popular folk tales, the vinegar in mayo lowers the pH and makes the food safer than without mayo. Yes, you can use straight vinegar or lemon juice to accomplish the same thing.
  • I guess that my last word is that mayo does have calories and you naturally will want to limit how much you use – just to keep the calories under control.

But all in all, a jar of mayo is freedom from sore biceps as a result from all the whisking. As a final word, in the spirit of the French chef, Daniel Boulud, it’s “fundamental” to cooking. Mayonnaise – you’re the sauce!!!