Birth of a sauce: victory at Port Mahon.
Food legend, has it that Mayonnaise was invented by a French chef in 1756 in
the preparation of a victory feast for the Duke de Richelieu. The chef
intended to make a classic French sauce with cream and eggs, but he was out of
cream so he substituted olive oil, et voila, c'est incroyable! The amazing
sauce was named mayonnaise after the victory after Port Mahon.
One hundred and forty seven years later, Richard Hellmann, a German immigrant
opened a delicatessen in New York City that featured salads and sandwiches with
the mayonnaise made by his wife. Hellman's mayonnaise was so popular
that they soon began selling it in large glass jars with the now famous
"Blue Ribbon," label. Out west in California, the Best Foods
company also discovered how popular mayonnaise was and began offering its own
version of the sauce. In 1932, the two companies merged although the
product is still sold as Hellman's east of the Rockies and as Best Foods to the
Over the years the popularity of mayonnaise in America has increased steadily
over the years. Recently, new varieties of this white emulsified product
have appeared on the shelf. In the 1980's, "Mayonnaise Lite," and
mayonnaise appeared in response to an increase in public health
consciousness. More recently, the Dijonnaise product was introduced in
1992, combining mayonnaise and dijon mustard. The popularity of Dijonnaise
was so great that a variety of other flavors were soon to follow. Mayonnaise flavored with
barbecue sauce, honey mustard, chipotle, and horse-raddish are now found on most supermarket
Like Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauce, mayonnaise is an emulsion,
technically, a stable mixture with one liquid suspended microscopically within
another. As many people have discovered, making mayonnaise in a blender is
easy and almost idiot-proof — hey, I'm a lazy unimaginative sod and I can do
it — and the results will likely be a pleasant surprise.
Here's a simple recipe for Homemade Mayonnaise (makes about a cup and a half)
- 1 whole egg
- 1 tsp sugar
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Before starting, bring all your ingredients to room temperature. Rinse your
blender bowl with hot water then dry it with a towel, you want it to still be a
little warm when you start.
Add the egg, mustard, sugar, salt & ¼ cup of the oil then turn
the blender to its highest setting.
After a minute open the top
and drizzle in another ¼ cup of oil into the mixture.
Next add the lemon juice then drizzle in the last ½ cup of oil.
Blend until it's thick. Stopping as needed to scrape the sides of the
If your mayonnaise doesn't emulsify, you've probably added the oil too
fast. This can also happen if the oil or egg are cold when you
begin. To try and rescue the sauce, add a teaspoon of warm water &
Once you have the basic recipe down, you can experiment with the addition of
other flavors to discover the latest amazing combination. Some of our
favorites are: Curry, Tomato-Basil, and Anchovy-Garlic (Yowza!)1.
One final note, The Joy of Cooking2 reports, "Don't
try to make mayonnaise if a thunderstorm threatens or is in progress, and it
simply will not bind." Go figure.
1 The Silver Palate Cookbook, Julie Rosso
& Sheila Lukins (1982)
2 The Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer & Marion
Rombauer Becker (1975 edition)