A fresh, home-made mayonnaise is not only a delicious accompaniment or condiment to your meal the raw olive oil and eggs are literally packed with easy to digest natural enzymes and nutrients that have not been killed off by high-heat processing or sterilisation. The flavour derives from the combination of creamy eggs, mustard and the distinctive flavour of olives that is a feature of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. The fresh egg yokes emulsify the sauce – not fake, novel ingredient such as xanthan or soy lecithin. It takes next to no time to whisk up – either by hand or with a blender and once you see how easy it is to make and how natural the flavours are it is unlikely you’ll be tempted to buy a commercial fake ever again. If you want to benefit from the nutrients as well as the flavour only use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. All other liquid vegetable oils (bar linseed oil) are fakes and you will be consuming neutered, nutritionally defunct food packed with energy but with little or no nutritional benefit.
For the provenance of mayonnaise see below. See also this post on fake vegetable oils.
Olive oil, 4 eggs, lemon juice, mustard, salt & pepper
Whisk or blend two whole eggs and the yoke of two eggs together until smooth.
Add a teaspoon of mustard, the juice of half a lemon and some salt and pepper and mix together with the eggs.
Dribble the olive oil into the eggy mixture whilst whisking/blending continuously – keep adding the oil until the sauce has emulsified into a texture you are happy with.
Spoon into a clean air-tight jar and keep refrigerated.
Stored cold it can stay fresh for up to three weeks in the fridge – the lemon juice, mustard and cold storage (at 5 degrees centigrade) help prevent the fresh, raw eggs from turning.
The provenance of mayonnaise
Although olives have been pressed for their oil for millennia in the Mediterranean the consumption of olive oil outside of this area was rare. Olive oil was unknown of in traditional British, German, Swedish or central European cooking. There was not a big trade in olive oil between the various European nations until after the second world war. If someone did get hold of a bottle it was a prized possession used for special dishes not as part of everyday cooking.
Populations living outside of the Mediterranean could only cook and prepare food with solid, saturated animal fats – none of which are conducive to making a good mayonnaise sauce. One can therefore conclude, with some degree of certainty that mayonnaise derives from Mediterranean cuisine and that the original version would almost certainly have used cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Although northern European countries and central and eastern European countries could not grow or make olive oil they began to embrace mayonnaise in the nineteenth century. Many Russian dishes, to this day, coat their food in mayonnaise. How were they able to do this if they didn’t have access to liquid vegetable oils?
The transformation occurred in the nineteenth century when Russia decided to produce oil from sunflowers. Extracting oil from the seed (as opposed to the fruit) of the plant is a slow tedious exercise that few cultures cared to engage with. It was not until the advent of fossil fuels and industrial steam powered mills that extracting oil from seeds became possible. This was of great benefit since seed oil is considerably cheaper than cold-pressed olive oil. It is much more efficient to grow acres and acres of beautiful sunflowers than it is to grow and maintain ancient olive groves. For the first time in human history the delight and joy of blending egg yokes with a liquid vegetable oil other than the oil derived from an olive could be served to the masses, Whilst growing sunflowers to crush the oils sounds enormously beneficial there are some problems that the everyday cook should be aware of if they choose to use seed vegetable oils in their dishes.
Firstly, taste. Cold-pressed, extra virgin sunflower oil tastes bitter and unpalatable. I once made a mayonnaise with cold-pressed extra virgin sunflower oil and it stood in the fridge unloved and uneaten until it was eventually binned. That all said mayonnaise made from cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil can taste equally startling for those not used to the traditional, natural flavours of the original mayonnaise and who have become accustomed to the commercial mayonnaises where all flavour is deliberately extracted from the oil and substituted with fake MSG derived flavours.
Secondly, the extraction process. The industrialised extraction process of sunflower seeds is, in fact, the real bête noire of modern commercial seed oils. The high heat milling and extraction process combined with the oils exposure to air and light rapidly turns the volatile polyunsaturated fats rancid. The edible oil industry is thus faced with two problems – the naturally bitter flavours of virgin sunflower oil and the overwhelming taste of rancidity. To try and solve this twin challenge they put the by now rancid oil through a high-pressurised steam bath so that all flavour is deliberately removed. The process of high-speed milling, exposure to air and light combined with high-steam deodorisation renders the final product tasteless as well as lifeless and potentially floating with harmful free-radicals. Any nutritional benefits that could have been present in the seed oil have been completely bastardised into a substance more problematic than beneficial – but you would never know if you were to taste it because any bad tastes and flavours have been expressly removed.
Finally, most modern sunflower seeds have been deliberately bred to reduce certain aspects of the seeds natural characteristics – such as increasing the vitamin E content and reducing naturally present saturated fats. One side effect of this is an increase in essential omega-6 oils at the expense of omega-3 oils. Such high concentrations of omega-6 fats, many nutritionists believe, is what is causing a sudden, hitherto unheard of, rise in inflammation that challenges our immune systems. A new phenomena in the wider population that was previously unheard of.
Because of the problematic extraction and refining process of odourless, tasteless and rancid sunflower and other seed oils and because an extra virgin olive oil mayonnaise is, without a shadow of a doubt, the real McCoy I only ever recommend the use of olive oil in my mayonnaise recipes. All other oils (bar perhaps cold-pressed linseed oil) are poor substitutes.