(Recipes follow)

Mayonnaise is widely used and enjoyed. Technically, mayonnaise is an uncooked emulsion prepared from egg (yolk or whole), oil, vinegar, lemon juice and spices. A step further: an emulsion is a liquid mixture in which a fatty substance is suspended in minute droplets.

Although this sounds complex, it isn’t. There are two Basic Mayonnaise recipes to gain experience from: Version I uses 4 egg yolks and is prepared with a whisk or hand mixer; Version II uses 2 whole egg and is prepared in an electric blender.

Egg yolks are essential in making mayonnaise. They absorb oil and bind it into a thick, creamy mixture forming the basis of the mayonnaise. The tiny droplets of oil dispersed throughout the mixture are each surrounded by egg yolk, thus forming an emulsion. The maximum amount of oil that a large egg yolk will absorb is approximately ¾ cup. When this limit is exceeded, the yolks become saturated and their binding properties break down. As a result, the mayonnaise either thins out or separates. Be sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning your mayonnaise.

If the mayonnaise refuses to thicken or if the oil suddenly releases from suspension (and the yolks appear to form tiny lumps), it has “curdled” or “separated. Often mayonnaise will curdle if it undergoes a sudden change of temperature. If this occurs, DON’T PANIC. It’s a simple matter to restore the creaminess and smoothness to curdled mayonnaise. Place 1 egg in the blender and blend for a few seconds or beat in a mixing bowl for about one minute. Begin adding the curdled mixture to the egg in a very small stream, beating all the time. Check for the desired consistency of the mayonnaise as you work.

STORING HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE

Glass or earthenware crocks, bowls or jars are fine for storing mayonnaise. Unlike metal containers, they guard against any slight discoloration of the sauce. Level off the mayonnaise in the container and cover the mayonnaise, but not the container, with a fitted piece of waxed paper rinsed under cold water. This professional trick is used to prevent a film from forming on any thickened sauce. For added protection, place a lid on the container.

It is best to store mayonnaise in the refrigerator. In spite of these precautions, however, your mayonnaise may curdle during storage. If so, allow the mayonnaise to come to room temperature, then follow the procedure I gave you for restoring curdled mayonnaise.

RECIPE VARIATIONS

There are several tasty and colorful variations for the Basic Mayonnaise recipes. You can replace the vinegar with lemon juice. Or, you can flavor Basic Mayonnaise with paprika, curry powder, tomato paste or dry mustard to taste. A few drops of Tabasco sauce and lemon juice give you Piquant Mayonnaise. If you prefer mayonnaise with a thinner consistency, dilute it with a small amount of cream or half-and-half, and a dash of orange or lemon juice. This helps to thin the sauce, making the mayonnaise spreadable.


BASIC MAYONNAISE

4 medium egg yolks
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 cups vegetable oil
1 Tbsp wine vinegar

Place egg yolks, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Beat with electric hand mixer at medium speed until thick, pale and fluffy. Add 5 ounces oil in a very thin stream, beating constantly, until thickened and oil is absorbed. Beat in the vinegar. Add the remaining oil slowly, beating constantly, until all the oil is blended into the mixture. Mayonnaise will be very thick. Place in refrigerator container. Cut waxed paper to fit over top; rinse in cold water. Place over mayonnaise; cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Yield: 1¾ cups.

Variations:

Beat 1 teaspoon paprika into 1¾ cups Basic Mayonnaise for Paprika Mayonnaise.

Beat 2 teaspoons curry powder into 1¾ cups Basic Mayonnaise for Curry Mayonnaise.

Beat 2 tablespoon tomato paste into 1¾ cups Basic Mayonnaise for Tomato Mayo.

Beat 3½ teaspoons dry mustard into 1¾ cups Basic Mayonnaise for Mustard Mayo.

Beat 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, 2 teaspoons heavy cream and 4 teaspoons lemon juice into 1¾ cups Basic Mayonnaise for Piquant Mayo.


BASIC BLENDER MAYONNAISE

1 cup salad oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
¼ tsp dry mustard
Dash of cayenne pepper

Pour ¼ cup of the oil into electric blender and add vinegar, lemon juice, egg and seasonings. Cover and blend for 5 seconds. Remove cover while blender is running and add the remaining oil in a thin steady stream. Turn off blender immediately after adding oil. Yield: 1½ cups.