Mayonnaise (//, // or in AmE also //, and often abbreviated as mayo //) is a thick, creamy dressing often used as a condiment. It is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices. Proteins and lecithin in the egg yolk serve as emulsifiers in both mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce. Commercial egg-free alternatives are available for vegans and others who want to avoid animal products and cholesterol, or who are allergic to eggs.
Mayonnaise varies in color, but is often white, cream, or pale yellow. It may range in texture from that of light cream to a thick gel. In countries influenced by French culture, mustard is also a common ingredient, but the addition of mustard turns the sauce into a remoulade with a different flavor and the mustard acts as an additional emulsifier.
The word mayonnaise was not used for a dressing before the start of the 19th century. The earliest reference appears to be by Alexandre Viard (1806), who however never quite gives a recipe for the dressing itself. At that point, the sauce was made with aspic or jelly, rather than an egg emulsion. In 1815, Louis Eustache Ude wrote:
Take three spoonfuls of Allemande, six ditto of aspic, and two of oil. Add a little tarragon vinegar, that has not boiled, some pepper and salt, and minced ravigotte, or merely some parsley. Then put in the members of fowl, or fillets of soles, &c. Your mayonnaise must be put to ice; neither are you to put the members into your sauce till it begins to freeze. Next dish your meat or fish, mask with the sauce before it be quite frozen, and garnish your dish with whatever you think proper, as beet root, jelly, nasturtiums, &c.
In a 1820 work, Viard describes something like the more familiar emulsified version:
This sauce is made to "take" in many ways: with raw egg yolks, with gelatine, with veal or veal brain glaze. The most common method is to take a raw egg yolk in a small terrine, with a little salt and lemon juice: take a wooden spoon, turn it while letting a trickle of oil fall and stirring constantly; as your sauce thickens, add a little vinegar; put in too a pound of good oil: serve your sauce with good salt: serve it white or green, adding green of ravigote or green of spinach.
This sauce is used for cold fish entrees, or salad of vegetables cooked in salt water.
In 1808, Grimod de La Reynière referred to a "bayonnaise" sauce: "But if one wants to make from this cold chicken, a dish of distinction, one composes a bayonnaise, whose green jelly, of a good consistency, forms the most worthy ornament of poultry and fish salads."
One of the most common places named as the origin of mayonnaise is the town of Mahón in Menorca, Spain, where it was then taken to France after Armand de Vignerot du Plessis's victory over the British at the city's port in 1756. According to this version, the sauce was originally known as salsa mayonesa in Spanish and maonesa (later maionesa) in Catalan (as it is still known in Menorca), later becoming mayonnaise as it was popularized by the French.
The Larousse Gastronomique suggests: "Mayonnaise, in our view, is a popular corruption of moyeunaise, derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means yolk of egg." The sauce may have been christened mayennaise after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, because he took the time to finish his meal of chicken with cold sauce before being defeated in the Battle of Arques.
According to Trutter et al.: "It is highly probable that wherever olive oil existed, a simple preparation of oil and egg came about — particularly in the Mediterranean region, where aioli (oil and garlic) is made."
Mayonnaise can be made by hand with a mortar and pestle, whisk, or fork, or with the aid of an electric mixer or blender. It is made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil. The oil and the water in yolks form a base of the emulsion, while lecithin and protein from the yolks are the emulsifiers that stabilize it. A combination of van der Waals interactions and electrostatic repulsion determine the bond strength among oil droplets. The high viscosity of mayonnaise is attributed to the total strength created by these two intermolecular forces. Taste and further stabilize the emulsion, as mustard contains small amounts of lecithin. If vinegar is added directly to the yolk, it can emulsify more oil, thus making more mayonnaise.
For large-scale preparation of mayonnaise where mixing equipment is being employed, the process typically begins with the dispersal of eggs, either powdered or liquid, into water. Once emulsified, the remaining ingredients are then added and vigorously mixed until completely hydrated and evenly dispersed. Oil is then added as rapidly as it can be absorbed. Though only a small part of the total, ingredients other than the oil are critical to proper formulation. These must be totally hydrated and dispersed within a small liquid volume, which can cause difficulties including emulsion breakdown during the oil-adding phase. Often, a long agitation process is required to achieve proper dispersal/emulsification, presenting one of the trickiest phases of the production process. Though, as technology in the food industry advances, processing has been shortened drastically, allowing roughly 1000 liters to be produced in 10 minutes.
Chile is the world's third major per capita consumer of mayonnaise and first in Latin America. Mayonnaise became widely accessible in the 1980s.
Guidelines issued in September 1991 by Europe's Federation of the Condiment Sauce Industries recommend that oil and liquid egg yolk levels in mayonnaise should be at least 70% and 5%, respectively. The Netherlands incorporated this guideline in 1998 into the law Warenwetbesluit Gereserveerde aanduidingen in article 4. Most available brands easily exceed this target.
Commercial mayonnaise sold in jars originated in Philadelphia in 1907 when Amelia Schlorer decided to start selling her own mayonnaise recipe originally used in salads sold in the family grocery store. Mrs. Schlorer's mayonnaise was an instant success with local customers and eventually grew into the Schlorer Delicatessen Company. Around the same time in New York City, a family from Vetschau, Germany, at Richard Hellmann's delicatessen on Columbus Avenue, featured his wife's homemade recipe in salads sold in their delicatessen. The condiment quickly became so popular that Hellmann began selling it in "wooden boats" that were used for weighing butter. In 1912, Mrs. Hellmann's mayonnaise was mass-marketed and later was trademarked in 1926 as Hellmann's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise.
Japanese mayonnaise is typically made with apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar and a small amount of MSG, which gives it a different flavor from mayonnaise made from distilled vinegar. It is most often sold in soft plastic squeeze bottles. Its texture is thicker than most Western commercial mayonnaise.
Kewpie (Q.P.) is the most popular brand of Japanese mayonnaise, advertised with a Kewpie doll logo. The vinegar is a proprietary blend containing apple and malt vinegars.
Mayonnaise is very popular in Russia, where it is made with sunflower seed oil. A 2004 study showed that Russia is the only market in Europe where mayonnaise is sold more than ketchup by volume. It is used as a sauce in the most popular salads in Russia, such as Russian salad, or Olivier salad (оливье, read [o-liv-yeh], from French Olivier), dressed herring, and also many others. Leading brands are Calve (marketed by Unilever) and Sloboda (marketed by Efko).
As a base for other sauces
Mayonnaise is the base for many other chilled sauces and salad dressings. For example, sauce rémoulade, in classic French cuisine, is mayonnaise to which has been added mustard, gherkins, capers, parsley, chervil, tarragon, and possibly anchovy essence.
A typical formulation for commercially made mayonnaise (not low fat) can contain as much as 80% vegetable oil, usually soybean but sometimes olive oil. Water makes up about 7% to 8% and egg yolks about 6%. Some formulas use whole eggs instead of just yolks. The remaining ingredients include vinegar (4%), salt (1%), and sugar (1%). Low-fat formulas will typically decrease oil content to just 50% and increase water content to about 35%. Egg content is reduced to 4% and vinegar to 3%. Sugar is increased to 1.5% and salt lowered to 0.7%. Gums or thickeners (4%) are added to increase viscosity, improve texture, and ensure a stable emulsion.
Mayonnaise is prepared using several methods, but on average it contains around 700 kilocalories (2,900 kJ) per 100 grams, or 94 kilocalories (Cal) per tablespoon. This makes mayonnaise a calorically dense food.
Egg-free versions of mayonnaise are available for vegans and others who want to avoid eggs, animal fat, and cholesterol, or who have egg allergies. In the U.S., these alternatives cannot be labelled as "mayonnaise" because of the FDA's definition of mayonnaise making egg a requirement.
In August 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration sent out a warning letter to the San Francisco company Hampton Creek, objecting to the name of their "Just Mayo" product, which is not egg-based, so does not meet the U.S. legal definition of "mayonnaise".
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- Blender Mayonnaise Recipe
- Science Channel's The Making Series: #2 Making of Mayonnaise (video in Japanese)
- NPR's Report on the 250th Birthday of Mayonnaise and its history