For the longest time even I, blessed with an above average interest in eating wholesome, was drawn towards buying a mayonaise labelled “only 5 ingredients”, foolishly favouring it over complicated efforts to make our own out of misinformed convenience and thus instinctively proving the point that a battle between taste, sensibility and economy is very much fought over these condiments, created in industrialised production processes, specifically designed to comply with an ever enlarging scale and well-meant but unbalanced hygiene regulations.
No need to go to any war over this though. If you just take a bit of common sense into account you’ll soon ridicule the big food industry and their trickery, out to make you believe it’s all ever so complex and best left to the experts, while in fact its simplicity is such a stylish, allround winner and in your kitchen you are the chef ànd the policymaker: you decide what goes in and, more importantly, what not.
As usual the secret to succes, which in this case translates to having a constant supply of delicious homemade mayonnaise cheaper and healthier than its store bought cousin but just as tasty or even better, lies in a combination of using quality ingredients, a focus on a balanced ratio and the trustworthy process of fermentation to benefit and ensure long-term preservation. Using an immersion blender helps too, obviously, as it cuts down on the elbow grease needed to otherwise whisk your creation to perfection and to be honest: not having technology help out here would surely be a dealbreaker for me.
Not before we acquired our current brood of chickens at Les Pierres did I dare to actually research how fresh supermarket eggs generally are, having an apprehensive inkling of the outcome to begin with and ignorance seems bliss, doesn’t it? I won’t bore you with the details as they are easily found everywhere on the internet, but if you’ll do the math that originate from rules and regulations yourself you will realise that by the time you buy eggs in the supermarket, depending on where you live they could shockingly be as old as two months, yet will still be labelled ‘fresh’.
To now care for our feathered girls in anticipation of their daily gift has also made me appreciate a better understanding of yet another part of our food provenance, a useful if not essential practice we managed to thoroughly and duly disregard because we were lead to believe there’s more important stuff to concern ourselves with.
Before I get too carried away, I know I’m preaching to my kind of choir anyway, just let me point out that if you’re not 100 percent sure of the source of the eggs you’d be using and their exact freshness, it does not make sense to use them in fermentation, as ideally you want your start to be as pristine as possible. I’m not saying you can’t make homemade mayonnaise from store bought eggs, but maybe stick to making the amount you are going to use up within a few days. Better safe than sorry, right?
As for what to use to kick of fermentation: it all works, left over whey from making yoghurt or cheese, drained off whey from a batch of milk kefir, salty sauerkraut liquid or even the beet kvass you have brewing on the side. It might turn your mayonnaise pretty in pink, but rest assured it will not affect its taste.
Even if you’re completely new to fermenting, it’s rather easy to start you’re own fermentation starter from scratch, by adding a couple hand full of raisins (just about a 1/4 cup) to a pint size mason jar and fill it up for about 3/4 with non chlorinated water and let it sit on your countertop, maybe feeding it a tablespoon of sugar every day until it starts to bubble and fizz. Whatever fermentation starter you do use, make sure it’s active and alive to ensure proper preservation: if you want the good guys (as in bacteria, beneficial bacteria) to win, better make sure they are present and wildly activated by providing them with the sweetness they constantly crave.
In addition to its value as a flavourful condiment by itself, mustard is added to mayonnaise because of its emulsifying capacities, primarily attributed to the presence of mucilage in the coat of the crushed seeds. I will no doubt write a whole lot more on the blog about making mustard yourself (a similar experience to making this mayonnaise; once you’ve done it once you will probably not settle for a store bought abstraction when it comes to flavour and adaptability, using seeds you’ll probably find in your direct surroundings), its fascinating history and the prominent role it has in Les Pierres’ kitchen, but for now let’s go with my number one choice, favoured because we live in France and because there’s white wine involved in creating Dijon mustard.
When it comes to choosing an oil to use for your newly preferred mayonnaise, there are a few things to consider, first of them, obviously, being taste. If you really like the taste of olive oil, there is no reason not to grab your bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil as the flavour composition of your mayonnaise will be completely decided by its strong and tangy sharpness, no judgements made. I myself prefer a more mellow oil that does not has a complex taste profile but acts as the transportation vessel for our other ingredients, like for example grape seed oil, a by-product of the winemaking industry that surrounds us here. Some words of caution though, as there’s a small toxicity concern: grapeseed oil can occasionally have dangerous levels of harmful compounds due to the drying process, which involves direct contact with combustion gases. Even if you buy cold pressed organic grapeseed oil, produced without any chemical substances, I wouldn’t recommend using it as your primary cooking oil, also because it is high in omega-6 fatty acids but contains hardly any omega-3s and I would suggest it’s important to strive for balance.
I am currently looking into ways of producing oils myself, with the famous Piteba hand oil expeller press firmly on top of my wish list and the walnut trees growing at Les Pierres but also at Ivory’s recently acquired tiny office as a substantial supply. My daydreaming unrealistic mind also wanders towards cultivating more safflowers (Carthamus tinctorius), because the oil exceeded from the seeds of this thistle-like annual plant is flavourless and colourless, rendering it an excellent candidate for the use in our mayonnaise.
As an equally important bonus: its flowers are very pretty.
Don’t let my digressions fool you into thinking that making your own lacto fermented mayonnaise is somehow arduously difficult: it’s not. It’s all about the magic that inspired Big Food to start making money with it in the first place and it’s real easy to reclaim and exciting to sophisticate.