Humans are illogical. That’s what makes us interesting. It’s also what allows many who are vegetarian for ethical reasons to happily chow down on a cheesecake from the average deli or supermarket, without concern over the (usually) battery eggs, despite the battery egg industry being arguably even crueller than the intensive chicken meat business. Other mad humans, such as myself, are strict about only eating free-range pork and grass-fed beef from known farms but – insanely - still wear pieces of cow (if indeed it is cow?) on their feet, which come from what sort of farming I know not (I’m working on it).
Back to eggs, though. The big battery business is bad indeed. Bad for the chickens, the environment and the freshness and taste of the eggs. In something like mayonnaise, where the egg is raw and a defining ingredient, you want the best (though, of course, supermarket mayos contain cooked egg).
Actually, when you have a good look at the label of any supermarket mayonnaise, there is a score of reasons, besides the egg issue, that might induce you to start whipping up your own. The oil is of the worst sort and there’s a party of chemicals happening which further alters the taste and texture. The most benign ingredient is probably the water. On some mayo labels, water is actually the first (and therefore most dominant) ingredient, which is pretty bloody impressive, from a food technology point of view.
MAYO AT HOME
The thing about making your own is that it’s so damn easy. But you do need a bit of patience and a bit of rule-following. The critical thing – which is often not mentioned - is the temperature of the ingredients, mostly of the eggs.
If it’s winter, place them in lukewarm water for a few minutes. My other tip is that you use a bowl which is both stable and heavy. Place a damp cloth on the counter or table and place the bowl on top of it, bunching the cloth around the bowl somewhat. The cloth-bowl set-up means if you have no helper, you can whisk with one hand, and add oil with the other, without having to use either hand to keep the bowl still. For one of the most detailed and helpful recipes, check out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
If you have a strong stomach, check out the mysteries of balut. Balut is a dish popular in the Philippines and consists of an egg in which the chick – usually a duck – has been allowed to partially or almost fully develop. The half-formed bird, with bones still soft enough that it can be eaten in its entirety (beak and all), is consumed (cooked) along with what’s left of the egg. Not for sissies, if you didn’t grow up with it. Read more here.