“Mayonnaise is a food best made at home and almost never made at home. This has robbed us of something that is both healthy and an absolute joy to eat with gusto.” Tamar Adler
My favorite chapter in Tamar Adler’s “An Everlasting Meal,” was, hands down, “How to Teach an Egg to Fly,” and before you click away because, this girl! she’s always talking about Tamar Adler!, please bear with me because, I promise, I’m going somewhere good. So this chapter two of Tamar’s book, the egg chapter, is 15 pages long and divided into six parts, each one dealing with a specific method in which to use an egg. She talks about boiled eggs, poached eggs, fried or scrambled, omelets, frittatas and, just when your mind is appropriately reeling, thinking of all the different things eggs can do, mayonnaise.
Here is the part that hooked me:
I keep my mayonnaise and aioli for two or three days in the refrigerator even though they contain raw eggs. I trust the freshness of my eggs, and the cleanliness of the lives of the hens that lay them. If your eggs don’t come from a source you know or if you are worried, make less and keep it for a shorter time.
Two things about those sentences: (1) She’s not afraid of raw eggs and (2) That’s because she’s so confident of the quality of her eggs.
Tim and I were talking the other day about how a lot of things on this site are subtle, not overt, like the fact that we drink raw milk from a farmer who lives about two hours away from us, whose farm we’ve visited and whose cows we’ve touched. Some of you have been following along here long enough to know the whys and hows of this decision, as well as the fact that we get our eggs from the same farmer and, the majority of our produce from a different organic farm down the road, but many of you probably don’t. That’s because, when push comes to shove, this site isn’t about where you buy your groceries or whether or not you support the consumption of raw milk (which, because we’re asked about this often, is not illegal, just not available in the store [at least in most states], and you can find a local provider in your area through realmilk.com) (also, while we’re on the subject, you can find more thorough info about raw milk here or here or here).
The point is, in our home, we sort of take it for granted that when we’re using milk, it’s the kind we pick up in a local parking lot on Monday afternoons; or that, when we’re whisking eggs, they’re the kind produced by happy, sun-seeing chickens raised on small farms. Whether or not you source your food from similar places is up to you; we’re just saying that this is what works for us.
So along those lines, that’s why, when the people at Pete & Gerry’s eggs* contacted us recently, suggesting we check out their heirloom eggs, we researched the way they treat their hens (keeping them in spacious, cage-free barns; feeding them grain free of antibiotics or hormones) and where (on small, low-overhead farms in New England) and felt comfortable with the process. Buying from a local farmer you trust is best, but when that’s not possible, companies like this one offer a strong alternative.
When you’ve got good eggs, you want to find a way to make them shine, so, for us, Tamar’s book still fresh in our minds, that meant making mayonnaise—and then turning the mayonnaise into garlic aioli. Do you like mayonnaise? Or, are you like me, and the mention of mayonnaise calls to mind gloppy, white, gelatinous mixtures well-meaning folks tried slopping on your sandwiches when you were a kid?
Either way, homemade mayonnaise is an entirely different experience.
First off, homemade mayonnaise tastes like the ingredients you’re using: eggs, olive oil, lemon, seasonings—not like an unidentifiable spread in an entirely different food group. Second, homemade mayonnaise is thick and beautifully yellow, in part from the tumeric we used but also from the brilliantly vibrant yolks from our heirloom eggs.
After it’s made, adding some smashed garlic paste and chopped parsley turns it into a rich and creamy aioli that’s perfect for dunking fries or, appropriately this time, spreading on a sandwich.
Making it is not for the faint of heart—there’s a lot, and I mean, a lot, of whisking involved (just ask Tim, bless him)—but the rewards are pretty fantastic: mayonnaise that tastes like mayonnaise should; garlic aioli that’s bright and fresh and luxurious.
And while next time we make it, I might go with coconut oil so I can speed things along in the food processor (see note in recipe below), I have to admit that watching a sauce like this come together, right before your eyes, is pretty empowering, as is learning where your food comes from or, doing a little research on something before you buy. Making your own mayonnaise, like meeting your own farmer, might not be necessary and might not be for everyone, but it’s working for us—adding pleasure and rich joy to the way we cook and, mostly, the way we eat.
*Oh, and also, while we’re talking about eggs, here’s an interesting article from “The Atlantic” worth checking out: “Sunny-Side Up: In Defense of Eggs”
Homemade Mayonnaise or Garlic Aioli
Adapted from the brilliant Tamar Adler
Makes enough for a crowd because, trust us, it’s rich and, a little goes a long way. We like it alongside roasted potatoes or fries.
2 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil (or coconut oil, if using a food processor)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon water
Big squeeze of lemon juice
For aioli: 2 cloves garlic, pounded with salt in a mortar and pestle or on a cutting board; as well as a few handfuls of chopped parsley
I should start by saying get ready for a workout or, if you’re like me, find some strapping soul nearby (I first liked him for his arms), because this recipe takes a substantial amount of upper body strength. Reading that advice, you could take a different approach: avoid the rest of the instructions and just throw everything into a food processor. But if you do, use coconut oil because olive oil will turn bitter in the rapid blades.
OK, here we go:
If you don’t have a steady stone bowl with a hefty bottom (thanks, Salvation Army!), then dampen a dish towel and form it into a ring on your table or work surface. Place your bowl inside this ring in order to steady it while you whisk. Whisk egg yolks, salt and tumeric. Once the yolks are a uniform yellow (about five seconds in), add a drop of oil, then whisk, then another drop, whisk. What you’re after is adding the oil in such a way that the texture of the mixture stays thick (think mayonnaise) and not thin (think olive oil). Be patient with it.
If something goes wrong at this point:
If, like me, you get overzealous adding oil and your mixture becomes thin and soupy, set it aside. Get a new bowl. Whisk one yolk and slowly add your soupy mixture to it, being more careful this time. It will work! You’ll be amazed!
Once the mixture is getting really thick, hard(er) to whisk, add the 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of water and big squeeze of lemon juice. Keep whisking. You may want to swap with another person nearby. Then, whisk in the remaining oil. Taste for salt, but keep in mind it will take time to fully disperse—if you’re not serving immediately, taste for salt later. Bam: you have mayonnaise! Tamar Adler says it will keep for two or three days in the fridge like this.
To make it aioli like we did, add the smashed garlic paste, whisk, add parsley and voila!
*Pete & Gerry’s sent us some of their eggs to try, but all opinions expressed in this post are our own.