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Nineteen times out of twenty when I make a salad dressing from olive oil, salt, dill, garlic and apple cider vinegar, blended in a pint measuring cup with an electric powered hand mixer, it comes out a nice, creamy liquid. The twentieth time it turns into something much thicker, a kind of dip that is really delicious. I gather this is called, "emulsification." However, it only happens infrequently by accident, no matter how I vary the amounts of ingredients. Can you tell me hos to make this happen reliably? Thanks!

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What you get is called an aioli. You can try looking for recipes for eggless aioli. The garlic should already help with the consistency, but some recipes also call for mustard (as emulsifier). –  Martin Turjak Jul 28 '13 at 8:00

2 Answers 2

Actually, you can make an emulsion using just garlic and olive oil! It's a very old spanish recipe traditionally done by hand taking mind numbing time.

Seeing that you want to achieve thickness using your existing ingredients (no cheating with emulsifiers) here is a suggestion that should work (i haven't done it, just seen it done).

  1. Pay attention to the freshness of the garlics. I believe the garlic oil may be a key here. So choose freshest garlic and don't go short.
  2. Hold all of the oil for now and most of the vinegar, but enough vinegar so your mixer grabs and starts (you should have all garlic, and a bit of vinegar)
  3. Run your mixer and add oil one drop at a time.
  4. As the mixture thickens you can add more vinegar and more oil. Lead with the vinegar as you're emulsion phase is oil in garlic/vinegar not the other way around.

It's possible that 1/20 time you immerse the blender into the vinegar first and pull in the oil slowly as opposed to whipping the oil and trying to bring garlic vinegar in. If you're going for the fast method as you've been, pay attention to your initial blender depth and how much oil is trapped under the cap.

Let us know how you make out!

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Adding vinegar to finely chopped, salted garlic first and then blending before adding oil slowly seems to work reliably, and emulsification takes place very quickly too. Lemon juice and vinegar appear to be interchangeable, depending on taste. –  Sam Jul 28 '13 at 20:35

The following factors will help create an emulsified dressing:

  • Add an emulsifier. Mustard has natural emulsifiers. Egg yolks contain significant quantities of lecithin, which is a very effective emulsifier (you will have to assess the risk factor of using raw egg yolks, or purchase pasteurized eggs).

  • Maximize the chances of emulsion via the method:

    1. Start with a small amount of vinegar. While running your immersion blender or mixer, very slowly drizzle oil into the vinegar.
    2. When it starts to get quite thick, you can add some more vinegar, and then continue drizzling in the oil. This alternation maintains the emulsion without exceeding the amount of oil that can be carried by the water phase (which is what vinegar primarily consists of).

    Overall, be patient and go slowly. A food processor is often better than an immersion blender, since you don't have to hold it.

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