Ah, summer… that time of year when vine ripened tomatoes appear at farm markets, allowing everyone to savor and enjoy a great tomato sandwich!
I’m always reminded of the late great Warren Zevon who made his last guest appearance on David Letterman in October 2002 before his untimely death. When asked by Letterman if his approach to life and music had changed since he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, Zevon delivered one of his now famous quotes: “You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute.”
And truly, there is no greater enjoyment in life than biting into a great tomato sandwich made with wonderful fresh from the garden heirloom tomatoes! There are so many varieties available at the farm market. Other than the beautiful red varieties, I love the Black Krim and Black Prince tomatoes. Not only do they taste great, but they are just beautiful with their dark flesh and green seeds. There are some who ascribe a slight smoky flavor to them, but I haven’t detected that (but maybe that’s one of the reasons I love them so much).
So, once you’ve gone out to the garden or returned from the farm market, you are left with several decisions – what bread to use, and what mayo? For me, it’s always a nice white bread sturdy enough to handle the juicy slices of tomato.
If you are in the South, most likely your fridge contains Duke’s mayonnaise. In the North, it’s Hellmans and out west, it’s Best Foods. Being in Central Virginia, I have both Duke’s and Hellmans. I grew up with Hellmans and have only recently purchased Duke’s (mainly out of curiosity). I like both brands, but find Duke’s to be a little more acidic than Hellmans. As one would suspect, the ingredients do vary between the two brands, Duke’s and Hellmans (Hellmans and Best Foods are from the same manufacturer and basically the same product marketed to different regions of the US). Duke’s lists “distilled and cider vinegar” and paprika among its ingredients. Hellmans lists vinegar, lemon juice and sugar, which makes the Hellmans a little less tart than its rival, Dukes. Both contain calcium disodium EDTA “to protect quality.” And there’s the departure from “all natural ingredients” in my book!
Remember when it used to be a problem to have mayo based products out of a refrigerated environment for too long? Well, apparently, Health Departments don’t worry so much about that anymore and it’s due to the addition of the calcium disodium EDTA, I’m sure. Google it, and I think you will be thinking like me “time to start making my own.”
The thought of homemade mayonnaise is like making pie dough. No one thinks they can do it properly. However, it’s not all that hard to do. As a precautionary measure, I’ve started using pasteurized eggs unless I get the eggs from a farm that I trust! Mayonnaise is an emulsion, or the mixing of two ingredients that are unblendable (like oil and water). The trick is to slowly, drop by drop, start adding your oil until the ingredients start to come together and thicken up a bit. Then you can increase the addition of the oil. The important thing is to barely trickle at the beginning, not just dump in the oil all at once!
After you’ve made your homemade mayonnaise, spread it on your bread of choice, slice up that perfectly ripened tomato, add a little salt and pepper and dig in!