Mayonnaise, informally mayo, is a thick cold sauce or dressing commonly used in sandwiches, hamburgers, composed salads, and on French fries. It also forms the base for many other sauces, such as tartar sauce, remoulade, salsa golf and rouille.
|Place of origin||Spain, France|
|Region or state||Mahón, Menorca, Balearic islands, Provence, Bayonne|
|Main ingredients||Oil, egg yolk, and vinegar or lemon juice|
It is a mix of oil, egg yolk, and an acid, either vinegar or lemon juice; there are many variants using additional flavorings. The color of mayonnaise varies from near-white to pale yellow, and its texture from a light cream to a thick gel.
Before the sauce called 'Mayonnaise' appeared in French cookbooks in the 18th century, several versions of similar sauces existed in Spain and in France.
In 1750, Francesc Roger Gomila, a Valencian friar, published a recipe for a sauce similar to mayonnaise in Art de la Cuina ("The Art of Cooking"). He calls the sauce "aioli bo". Earlier recipes of similar emulsified sauces, usually bearing garlic, appear in a number of Spanish recipe books, dating all the way back to the 14th century Llibre de Sent Soví, where it is called all-i-oli, literally "garlic and oil" in Catalan. This sauce had clearly spread throughout the Crown of Aragon, for Juan de Altamiras gives a recipe for it in his celebrated 1745 recipe book Nuevo Arte de Cocina ("New Art of Cooking").
On April 18, 1756, the Duke of Richelieu invaded Menorca and took the port of Mahon. A theory states that the "aioli bo" sauce was thereafter adopted by the cook of the Duke of Richelieu, who upon his return to France made the sauce famous in the French court. At that point, the sauce became known as mahonnaise (indicating it was named after the city of Mahon). A number of legends arose relating how the Duke of Richelieu first tried the sauce, including his discovery of the sauce in a local inn of Mahon where he would have allegedly asked the innkeeper to make him some dinner during the siege of Mahon, and even that he invented it himself as a quick garnish.
However, other sauces similar to mayonnaise seem to have existed in France prior to the conquest of Mahon by Richelieu. In a book published in 1742, François Marin gives a recipe for a sauce that is close to the modern mayonnaise, and inspired by remoulade sauce, and by aioli.
Another version is Grimod de La Reynière's 1808 "bayonnaise" sauce which is a sort of aspic: "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." In fact, the earliest known French recipes of the sauce appear to be recipes for an aspic, not a sauce; Viard's 1806 recipe for "poulets en mayonnaise" describes a sauce involving a velouté, gelatin, vinegar, and an optional egg to thicken it, which gels like an aspic.
The word "mayonnaise" is attested in English in 1815.
The origin of the name is unclear.
A common theory is that it is named for Port Mahon, (Maó in Menorquín) itself named after its founder Mago Barca, in Menorca, in honor of the 3rd Duke of Richelieu's victory over the British in 1756, and in fact the name "mahonnaise" is used by some authors. But the name is only attested long after that event. One version of this theory says that it was originally known as salsa mahonesa in Spanish, but that spelling is only attested later.
Grimod de La Reynière rejected the name "mayonnaise" because the word "is not French"; he rejected "mahonnaise" because Port Mahon "is not known for good food", and thus he preferred "bayonnaise", after the city of Bayonne, which "has many innovative gourmands and ... produces the best hams in Europe.
Another suggestion is that it derives from Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, because he took the time to finish his meal of chicken with cold sauce before the Battle of Arques, in which he was defeated.
Regardless of the origin of the term "mayonnaise", predating the arrival of Richelieu, the original name of the sauce before the second half of the 18th century was "aioli bo". This term was used in the 1745 recipe book "Nuevo Arte de Cocina", by Juan de Altimiras, featuring numerous traditional Menorcan recipes.
Recipes for mayonnaise date back to the early nineteenth century. In 1815, Louis Eustache Ude wrote:
No 58.—Mayonnaise. 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 an 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.
Modern mayonnaise can be made by hand with a whisk, a 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 the yolk form a base of the emulsion, while lecithin and protein from the yolk is the emulsifier that stabilizes it.[page needed] 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. Addition of mustard contributes to the taste and further stabilizes 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. As food technology advances processing has been shortened drastically, allowing about 1000 liters to be produced in 10 minutes.
Egg-free varieties 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. Egg-free varieties generally contain soya or pea protein as the emulsifying agent to stabilize oil droplets in water. Well-known brands include Nasoya's Nayonaise, Vegenaise and Just Mayo in North America, and Plamil Egg Free in the United Kingdom.
Mayonnaise is used commonly around the world, and is also a base for many other chilled sauces and salad dressings. For example, sauce rémoulade, in classic French cuisine, is a mix of mayonnaise and mustard, gherkins, capers, parsley, chervil, tarragon, and possibly anchovy essence.
Chile is the world's third major per capita consumer of mayonnaise and first in Latin America. Commercial mayonnaise became widely accessible in the 1980s. It is a common topping for completos.
Guidelines issued in September 1991 by Europe's Federation of the Condiment Sauce Industries recommend that mayonnaise should contain at least 70% oil and 5% liquid egg yolk. The Netherlands incorporated this guideline in 1998 into the law Warenwetbesluit Gereserveerde aanduidingen in article 4. Most available brands easily exceed this target. 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.
Japanese mayonnaise is typically made with rice vinegar, which gives it a flavor different from mayonnaise made from distilled vinegar. Apart from salads, it is popular with dishes such as okonomiyaki, takoyaki and yakisoba and may also accompany katsu and karaage. It is most often sold in soft plastic squeeze bottles. Its texture is thicker than most Western commercial mayonnaise, in part because only egg yolks and not the entire egg is used when making it. 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. The Kewpie company was started in 1925 by Tochiro Nakashima, whose goal was to create a condiment that made eating vegetables more enjoyable.
Mayonnaise is very popular in Russia, where it is made with sunflower oil and soybean oil. A 2004 study showed that Russia is the only market in Europe where more mayonnaise than ketchup is sold. It is used as a sauce in the most popular salads in Russia, such as Olivier salad (also known as Russian salad), dressed herring, and many others. Leading brands are Calvé (marketed by Unilever) and Sloboda (marketed by Efko).
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 was trademarked in 1926 as Hellmann's Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise. Hellmann's is known as Best Foods in the Western United States. Mayonnaise sales are about US$1.3 billion per year in the U.S.
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.
The nutrient content of mayonnaise (> 50% edible oil, 9–11% salt, 7–10% sugar in the aqueous phase) makes it suitable as a food source for many spoilage organisms. A set of conditions such as pH between 3.6 and 4.0, and low water activity aw of 0.925, restricts the growth of yeasts, a few bacteria and molds. Yeasts of the genus Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus fructivorans, and Zygosaccharomyces bailii are the species responsible for the spoilage of mayonnaise. The characteristics of spoilage caused by Z. bailli are product separation and a "yeasty" odor. A study suggests that adding encapsulated cells of Bifidobacterium bifidum and B. infantis prolongs the life of mayonnaise up to 12 weeks without microorganism spoilage.
Mayonnaise, both commercially processed and home-made, has been associated with illnesses from Salmonella globally. The source of the Salmonella has been confirmed to be raw eggs. Several outbreaks with fatal cases have been recorded, with a few major incidents. In a 1955 outbreak in Denmark, 10,000 people were affected by Salmonella from contaminated mayonnaise made by a large kitchen. The pH of the mayonnaise was found to be 5.1, with Salmonella counts of 180,000 CFU/g. The second outbreak, also in Denmark, caused 41 infections with two fatalities. The pH of the contaminated mayonnaise was 6.0, with Salmonella counts of 6 million CFU/g. In 1976 there were serious salmonellosis outbreaks on four flights to and from Spain which caused 500 cases and 6 fatalities. In the US, 404 people became ill and nine died in a New York City hospital due to hospital-prepared mayonnaise. In all salmonellosis cases, the major reason was inadequate acidification of the mayonnaise, with a pH higher than the recommended upper limit of 4.1, with acetic acid as the main acidifying agent.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mayonnaise.|
- 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