Separation anxiety and other problems with making mayonnaise

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own mayonnaise I have some advice for you: don’t bother.

Okay, maybe I’m just bitter – and that’s probably because I seem to be having serious problem with lemons at the moment.

Last Thursday night, in an attempt to step things up a bit, I tried my hand at mayonnaise.

Things started off pretty well, I separated two eggs and started beating the egg yolks with my mum’s old Kenwood Chefette on a low setting.


I followed Nigella’s strict instructions to add the 250ml of groundnut oil (followed, eventually by 75ml of extra virgin olive oil) “drop by mean drop” as I whisked. This didn’t exactly go according to plan. Even when I poured the oil from a height as the book recommended, the oil plopped into the bowl in big globules rather than teeny tiny droplets.

Despite all that, the consistency looked good; there was no separation and the mayo was thickening nicely. Gradually it got thicker and before long it actually started to look a lot like mayonnaise.

My only worry was that by this point I still had about 150mls of groundnut oil along with the extra virgin olive oil yet to add.

I carried on adding oil and for a while it still looked like mayonnaise until very suddenly it didn’t.

Within a second my reasonably realistic mayo became a thin, sloppy, liquidy mess.

For some reason I decided that the best thing to do was to just carry on whisking and adding oil.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but this did not improve the situation.

After all the oil was added, I was shrouded with disappointment and whisking a very fluid white soup.

Then I added the lemon juice, and the whole thing curdled.

Not to be defeated, I then added a splash of boiling water, as per Nigella’s instructions, in the vain hope that adding water would make it much less liquidy.

It did not.

Eventually I conceded and down the drain it went.

I separated some more eggs, and started again. You know what they say, wanna make mayonnaise you gotta separate some eggs.*

*No one in the history of speaking has ever said that.

This time I whisked slower and was more careful with how painfully slowly I added the oil.

But the same thing happened; one minute I had mayonnaise and the next I had white soup.

I began adding the olive oil, the mixture started to separate and I was left with a bowl of solidified white goop floating in a sea of green pond water.

All this was accompanied by the smell of electrical burning from the Kenwood Chefette.

I frantically tapped “mayonnaise too thin” into my phone and on the Internet’s advice, began separating another egg  (my freezer is now full of egg whites).

Carefully, I beat the gloopy, separated mixture into the yolk and mixed with a hand whisk.

Eventually, around the time my left arm felt like it was the size of Popeye’s, I was left with something that looked more like mayonnaise. I still had about 40ml of extra virgin olive oil to go, but decided not to add it for fear of making it too thin for a third time.


With the tangy memories of my unsuccessful hollandaise still fresh in my mind, I cut the lemon into quarters and tasted the mayo after practically every squeeze.

And there it was. Homemade, non-curdled, non-separated, non-liquid mayonnaise.

Perhaps a lifetime of eating only the stuff out of a bottle has ruined my understanding of what real mayonnaise actually is, because I can’t say I truly loved the taste of it. And one batch made absolutely loads, so maybe next time I’ll make a potato salad or maybe some coleslaw.

I’m also under strict instructions from my husband not to use the Kenwood Chefette electrical whisk until he has fitted a new plug – one that is “not hanging by a thread” and that is “earthed”. Hopefully this will avoid the threat of an electrical fire during future mayonnaise preparations.

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