Mayonnaise (//, often abbreviated as mayo) is a thick, creamy sauce often used as a condiment. It is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolks and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices. Lecithin in the egg yolk is the emulsifier.
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. In Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, olive oil is used as the oil and mustard is never included.
The word mayonnaise is not used for a sauce before the start of the nineteenth century. The earliest reference appears to be by Alexandre Viard (1806), who however never quite gives a recipe for the sauce 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.
The aspic version and the emulsified version would co-exist for some time before the more familiar emulsified version became standard.
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."  Some authors have claimed that this was the original term, thus tracing the sauce to Bayonne.
A number of tales have been put forth as "origins" for mayonnaise. All of them, however, are based on the undocumented premise that the sauce existed before the nineteenth century; nor can any of these explanations themselves be found before the nineteenth century.
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 mahonesa 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.
Nineteenth-century culinary writer Pierre Lacam is sometimes cited as suggesting that in 1459, a London woman named Annamarie Turcauht stumbled upon this condiment after trying to create a custard of some sort. However, no specific citation has been provided for this claim.
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.[page needed] Additionally, a bit of a mustard may also be added to sharpen its taste, and further stabilize the emulsion. 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.
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Homemade mayonnaise can approach 85% fat before the emulsion breaks down; commercial mayonnaise is more typically 70% to 80% fat. "Low fat" mayonnaise products contain starches, cellulose gel, or other thickeners to simulate the texture of real mayonnaise.
Commercial producers either pasteurize the yolks, freeze them and substitute water for most of their liquid, or use other emulsifiers. They also typically use soybean or rapeseed oil, for its lower cost, instead of olive oil. Some recipes, both commercial and homemade, use the whole egg, including the white.
Chile is the world's third major per capita consumer of mayonnaise and first in Latin America. Since mayonnaise became widely accessible in the 1980s Chileans have used it on locos, completos, French fries, and on boiled chopped potatoes, a salad commonly known as "papas mayo".
In Europe, especially Belgium and the Netherlands, mayonnaise is often served with French fries. It is also served with cold chicken or hard-boiled eggs in France, Poland, the UK, Benelux, Hungary, Austria, the Baltic States and Eastern Europe.
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.
At about the same time that Mrs. Schlorer's and Hellmann's Mayonnaise were thriving on the East Coast of the United States, a California company, Best Foods, introduced their own mayonnaise, which turned out to be very popular in the western United States. In 1932, Best Foods bought the Hellmann's brand. By then, both mayonnaises had such commanding market shares in their own half of the country that it was decided that both brands be preserved. The company is now owned by Unilever.
In the southeastern part of the United States, Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, founded the Duke Sandwich Company in 1917 to sell sandwiches to soldiers training at nearby Fort Sevier. Her homemade mayonnaise became so popular that her company began to focus exclusively on producing and selling the mayonnaise, eventually selling out to the C. F. Sauer Company of Richmond, Virginia, in 1929. Duke's Mayonnaise remains a popular brand of mayonnaise in the Southeast, although it is not generally available in other markets.
In addition to an almost ubiquitous presence in American sandwiches, mayonnaise forms the basis of northern Alabama's signature white barbecue sauce. It is also used to add stability to American-style buttercream and occasionally in cakes as well.
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. A variety containing karashi (Japanese mustard) is also common.
Apart from salads, it is popular with dishes such as okonomiyaki, takoyaki and yakisoba and may also accompany katsu and karaage. It is sometimes served with cooked vegetables, dabbed on sushi or mixed with soy sauce, hot/spicy chili oil or wasabi and used as dips. In the Tōkai region, it is a frequent condiment on hiyashi chūka (cold noodle salad). Many fried seafood dishes are served with a side of mayonnaise for dipping. It is also common in Japan to use mayonnaise on pizza. Mayonnaise is also often used for cooking where it can replace butter or oil when frying vegetables or meat.
Kewpie (Q.P.) is the most popular brand of Japanese mayonnaise, advertised with a Kewpie doll logo. It is made with egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and 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 which gives it a very distinctive flavor. 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), and dressed herring and also many others. Leading brands are Calve (marketed by Unilever) and Sloboda (marketed by Efko).
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There are many terms for mayonnaise in China. While imported brands would be labeled as mayonnaise in English, some terms used in China are the phonetic spelling 美乃滋, 蛋黄酱 (egg yolk sauce), 沙拉油 (salad oil) and 沙拉酱 (salad dressing). Imported brands of mayonnaise and whipped dressing can often be found at multicultural supermarkets in China such as Carrefour.
As a base for other sauces
Mayonnaise is the base for many other chilled sauces and salad dressings. For example:
- Fry sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup or another red sauce (e.g. Tabasco sauce, Buffalo wing sauce, or one of many smoky barbecue sauces popular in the Northwestern United States), spices, and sometimes a strong tasting salty liquid (such as Worcestershire or soy sauce) is added to balance out the sweeter red sauces. Commonly eaten on French fries in Utah, Idaho, eastern Washington and rural Oregon.
- Marie Rose sauce combines mayonnaise with tomato sauce or ketchup, cream, flavorings and brandy. In North America, a processed version of Marie-Rose, called "Russian dressing" sometimes uses mayonnaise as a base. However, most homemade varieties and nearly all commercial brands of "Russian dressing" use little or no mayonnaise as a base. They are very dark red and sweet dressings made with vegetable oil, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, and a variety of herbs and spices (often including mustard).
- Ranch dressing is made of buttermilk or sour cream, and minced green onions, along with other seasonings, and is sometimes mixed with mayonnaise although that is not a traditional ingredient.
- Rouille is aïoli with added saffron, red pepper or paprika.
- Salsa golf created in Argentina is mayonnaise with ketchup as well as spices such as red pepper or oregano.
- Sauce rémoulade, in classic French cuisine is mayonnaise to which has been added mustard, gherkins, capers, parsley, chervil, tarragon, and possibly anchovy essence. An industrially made variety is popular in Denmark and Sweden with French fries and fried fish. It is quite different from most of the remoulade sauces that are frequently found in Louisiana and generally do not have a mayonnaise base.
- Tartar sauce is mayonnaise spiced with pickled cucumbers and onion. Capers, olives, and crushed hardboiled eggs are sometimes included. A simpler recipe calls for only pickle relish to be added to the mayonnaise.
- Thousand Island dressing is a salmon-pink dressing that combines tomato sauce and/or tomato ketchup or ketchup-based chili sauce, minced sweet pickles or sweet pickle relish, assorted herbs and spices (usually including mustard), and sometimes including chopped hard-boiled egg—all thoroughly blended into a mayonnaise base.
- Certain variations of honey mustard are based on mayonnaise and are made by combining mayonnaise with plain mustard, brown sugar, and lemon juice.
Commercially made mayonnaise may contain sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, thickeners, emulsifiers, EDTA, flavor enhancers, and water. Such mixtures allow for the production of products that are low in fats and/or sugars.
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 six percent. 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.
There are several ways to prepare mayonnaise, but on average it contains around 700 kilocalories (2,900 kJ) per 100 grams, or 94 calories per tablespoon. This makes mayonnaise a calorically dense food.
There are egg-free mayonnaise-like spreads available for vegans and others who want to avoid eggs, animal fat and cholesterol, or who have egg allergies. These are suitable religious vegetarians who abstain from egg consumption (such as followers of Hindu vegetarianism).
Well-known brands include Nayonaise and Vegenaise in North America, and Plamil Egg Free in the UK. A popular substitute for mayonnaise is a mashed avocado with a squeeze of lemon; for example, tuna salads and egg salads are often made using avocado instead 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