Misadventures in Mayonnaise

My friend L___ and I had a fun nice time during her stay at The Roost and when she left one Saturday morning  I felt positively morose.  We had such a fun visit together! I miss her now.

To banish my little case of blues I got cracking in the kitchen. The rest of the weekend was packed with fun events and potlucks, and I was in the mood for a family favorite – potato salad, with bacon. The first step of that is a good mayonnaise.

I am sure you have a bottle of mayo in the fridge with that familiar blue label. If you’re really hip you might have a jar of TJ’s celadon-hued wasabi mayo, whee! I have a small jar of the Old Redoubtable but wanted to make this batch of potato salad really special by using homemade mayonnaise.

I have memories of littlehood watching my mom make mayonnaise, craning my neck to look up at the kitchen counter where she had lemons lounging next to bottles of oil, mustard and the salt and pepper grinder.

(my mOm’s salt & pepper mill, now my treasured kitchen companions)

Making mayo at home is a snap really, it is an emulsion of egg yolk, mustard and seasonings and good oil. Because it has egg yolk it needs to be used within a few days and you have to use good eggs. Happily here in California we have really clean eggs and I get mine from Farm Fresh To YOU.

Of course, sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. My mayo did a rude thing, it broke!

What that means is that I overloaded the egg and mustard emulsion with oil, causing the emulsion to fail or break – instead of a thick creamy mayonnaise I had a swirling bowl of oily soup! Eww!

So here’s what I did and where I messed up and how I fixed it to still made perfect mayo. I make the mistakes so you don’t have to! (I’m so generous, right?)

In my Cuisinart bowl I plopped in two egg yolks and let the machine run until the eggs were light yellow and thick. Next I added a tablespoon of mustard, some salt salt and pepper and a few dashes of cayenne. This time I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale mustard which I really like because it has that nice hoppy tang as well as the nice mustard zip.  After the mustard and seasonings are pulsed together with the yolks you are ready to add the oil.

Mayo mid en place

My Cuisinart has a nice feature, the feed tube has a tiny hole in the bottom that is designed to slowly drip in oil for exactly the purpose of making mayonaise.  I decided to splurge and bought a wonderful bottle of Stonehouse Olive Oil from Arbequina olives that produce a brighter yellow, citrusy flavored oil.


I filled the feed tube with the oil and set the machine to run.  Eventually the tube emptied and I refilled it again and again.

Here’s where I messed up.  After refilling the feed tube about three times but I still had plenty of oil to incorporate and I grew impatient.  Impatience as a cook is not a good quality. You have to anticipate the food needing more time than you might have think in order to be properly prepared.  No one wants an underdone potato or piece of meat, or in this case, a poorly prepared batch of mayonnaise.

I removed the feed tube from the food processor and began dribbling in the oil.  In my haste I really sloshed it in in fat gooshes  instead of a fine steady stream of oil that is required for properly prepared mayonaise.  Suddenly, instead of the thick, creamy emulsion continuing to mound in the work bowl it became loud and sloshy and completely liquid.  Drat.

But not to fear, most every kitchen mishap can be remedied.  Broken mayonnaise is no exception, fortunately!

I poured the mess into a clean container and pulled out a blender jar.  I added another egg yolk and a teaspoon of mustard and blended them together.  Slowly, *this time*, I dribbled back in the broken mayonnaise mixture in tiny doses and patiently blended it until all of the oil was encorporated.  Had I been patient the first time it never would have misbehaved.  I ended up with a very yellow mustardy mayonnaise which was delicious for a potato salad.

Mustardy mayo
(so thick!)

(the finished mayo)

Just for a laugh I want you to see the aftermath of my mayonnaise adventure.

The aftermath
(forgive my sink, it’s vintage 1927)

Please don’t ever let fear of making a mess in the kitchen prevent you from making creating a nice meal at home.  You can only learn to cook and improve your cooking (and eat good food) by making a mess and then cleaning it up.  Most of the time I like to clean as I go but sometimes life doesn’t work out that way.  Just like making mayonnaise, sometimes it doesn’t go smoothly but you can almost always fix things.

Homemade Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
1 T Dijon or other strong mustard
1-2 T fresh lemon juice
salt and white pepper (you can use black pepper if you prefer)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups light olive oil

In a blender or food processor add the eggs and mustard and let the machine run for a minute or two until the eggs are light yellow and thick.  Add the salt, lemon juice and peppers and pulse again.  With the machine running, add the oil in a tiny steady stream, or in little dribblets, until all the oil is incorporated.  Do  not rush this step.  The sauce should be very thick.  Taste for seasonings, add more salt and pepper, more lemon juice and pulse the machine a few times in between additions.   Be careful not to cut yourself on the food processor/blender blades.

Makes 2 cups, use within 3 days.

Because this homemade mayonnaise is so perishable, it’s perfect to use for a potato salad or any other salad or dish that requires mayo.

Additions:  You can add a few extra ingredients for some wonderful variations in the basic mayonnaise.  Here are a few that are my favorites:

  • Grainy mustard instead of Dijon
  • Aleppo pepper instead of cayenne
  • smoky paprika, just a dash for a subtle smoked flavor – try this in a chicken salad
  • 1/2 of a chipotle pepper, added in with the egg yolk – this is delicious on hamburgers
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely grated, for a quickie faux-aioli   – this is particularly good with left over roast beef or as a dip for prawns

2 responses to “Misadventures in Mayonnaise

  1. Barbie in the mtns

    Thanks for the recipe and the added Patience. I had forgotten just how good the home made mayo is. I actually made a little recipe of our favorite potato salad with the regular blue labeled store brand. I had to correct the seasoning a lot to get the right flavor. That is the difference with home made. Note: I will not be making any more since I seem to have no resistance to the potato salad. calling me from the refrigerator. Sigh.

    • Oh yes, that siren call of the potato salad is impossible to resist. Since I made the potato salad for a BBQ there were sadly no leftovers. Ephemeral potato salad…

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