Once again, South Carolina favorite Duke's mayonnaise is in the news. According to the Washington Post, it has a cult following. And it's a pretty large cult: Duke's ranks third, behind Hellman's and Kraft. As a South Carolina native, I weep for the rest of the nation, especially those who haven't realized Duke's is clearly the superior choice.
And yet, while the commercial choice is obvious to me, I wondered how it compared to homemade.
I am bad at making mayonnaise. This pains me to admit, because everyone knows how easy it is. My French mother-in-law whips up a batch with ease. She could do it with her eyes closed or, at the very least, with a glass of scotch in her hand and one eye on the pot of shrimp boiling on the stove. (Tip from the French woman: Fresh boiled shrimp dipped in homemade mayo is one of life's greatest pleasures.)
My efforts at mayonnaise have random results. Often, I fail completely, from the beginning. And I follow all the rules, waiting until the ingredients have reached room temperature, adding the oil gradually, taking my time like the insouciant French cooks I so admire.
What I hate most is when the mayo is emulsifying nicely and I think I've succeeded. Then one additional dash of oil turns it back into a runny liquid, and no amount of whipping will bring it back. By this point, I'm too sad to be further reminded of my failure by turning it into a salad dressing, so my efforts and ingredients are wasted.
This time? I gave up. I used the Cuisinart. Y'all. Why have I never done this before? It's so easy and there is no way to fail. My mayo reached the same consistency as Duke's and all was right with the world.
Then it was time to test the product. We always have a tub of Duke's in the fridge, but I transferred both mayos into identical dishes, so the kids wouldn't be swayed by brand recognition. They tasted, they contemplated and they immediately chose Duke's. Because Duke's is the best!
To be fair, they were probably thinking of sandwiches, where they would prefer a milder flavor. I preferred the Duke's myself, but when I put both spreads to the ultimate test — adding a dollop to the last of the local purple tomatoes, along with a sprinkle of French Picnic salt — homemade was the clear winner. Maybe it was the splash of tarragon vinegar I used in place of lemon juice. Maybe it was the thought of only local, farm fresh egg yolks being truly worthy of such delicious tomatoes. The homemade mayo was my choice as I consumed the rest of the tomato, and I chose it again when I ate a second tomato.
My husband, raised with homemade, but an equally avid consumer of Duke's since his marriage to me, declared Duke's to be "ranchy" and "a pretty cool dip for crudité." Ever the diplomat, he added, "The other one is more of a traditional mayonnaise and I would like it as a shrimp dip." There has always been room for Duke's and homemade in our house.
What's your favorite mayo? Homemade or commercial? If you use commercial, what's your brand?
(Image credits: Anne Postic)