Friday, 20 July 2012

Mayo Label Collection: Artisanal Bliss!

H45. Belze Majoneis. Utrecht, September 2011. € 2,50 for 330 ml

True Mayonnaise is under heavy siege these day, dear reader! But, from time to time, there is also Good News on the horizon, even in this our wayward age, utterly beset by vile chemical sauces and their Manichaean counterparts: health 'mayonnaises', of low calories, no egg and 60 % macro-biological oil. 

One such happy novelty, a truly remarkable product, came my way through the good offices of my friend Anna Garssen from Utrecht, the Netherlands. It is called ‘Belze Majoneis’ (which simply means ‘Belgian Mayonnaise’ in the local dialect of the Dutch province of Zeeland) and is a rare surviving instance of an honest, traditional production process.

Belze Majoneis is an artisanal Dodo in this our age of industrial corruption, a work of love by a true idealist, Mr Ton Schroers, who started manufacturing home-made mayo out of his mama’s kitchen some five decades ago when only 13. He made a good product for a fair price, and he flourished. Soon he diversified, adding mustards to his Mayos and exotic recipes to his cookbook. Still his business flourished, and so he decided to expand. He expanded his Zierikzee enterprise – called Ton’s Mosterd - to the shocking size of himself and three employees. And stopped there. With those modest means, he could manage everything he wanted to do. And what he did was impressive…

Mr Schroers designed no fewer than 160 different varieties of mustard, for all kinds, classes and tastes of customers: men, women, the young, the old, the overly sensitive, the allergic, the robust… you name it! Meanwhile he kept refining his mastery of Mayonnaise making, until he hit upon this extraordinary product, meant to equal any home-made mayonnaise, based on time-honoured Belgian criteria. (1)

The artisanal jar

And this sauce is certainly a gem! Although its colour is somewhat pale and its texture more liquid than one would prefer – the inevitable consequences of the rigorous avoidance of all sugars and chemical additions – the taste is a veritable godsend, an exercise in pure harmony between the salty, the sour, the creamy and the sweet which only compares with a Mozart concierto. Note, however, that it needs to breath for a day or so after opening, so as to bring out its deepest flavours and shed the dormant bitter undertone it possesses at first. After that you could not find a better sauce for dishes which demand strong flavours such as Oeuf Mayonnaise or the traditional Dutch and Belgian French Fries with Mayonnaise.

As for disadvantages I see only two: first of all it is near impossible to find. Only a tiny handful of shops, and a modest supermarket chain called Jumbo, offer this brand for sale, and you have to be in the Netherlands to buy it.

The back label

Secondly, I think the label could do with a little less information. Yes, we do like to know that the eggs are free range, that the mustard seeds are ecologically grown on a tiny island off the Dutch coast, and that all the energy is generated by solar panels. But stuffing both front and back labels with dense shovelfuls of information, until they read like a Who’s Who? and a What’s What? of New Age food processing is, frankly, a little more than the customer desires.

Lastly, there is the matter of price. Belze Majoneis is not cheap. But it is worth every penny. And who needs savings in the bank if you can live a happy, happy life, accompanied by a worthwhile Mayo, I ask!?

So: whoever has the chance: take a trip to Holland, skip the silly windmills and the sordid tulips, and find yourself a jar of an exceptional sauce instead. And those of you who are not so lucky as to be able to travel, check out Ton’s Mosterd’s website here for a peek into the workings of a proud artisanal company.

(1) 'Ton’s Mosterd' also makes Dutch Mayonnaise (label above) and a Spanish variant, which essentially is Garlic Mayonnaise.  

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