Making your own homemade dressings is easy and can be so much more flavorful than what is on the grocery store shelf.
A combination of sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk, olive or sunflower oil, and a splash of acid combined with a variety of cheese, herbs and spices. Most creamy dressings will last until the best buy date of the dairy ingredients when using dried herbs and spices.
A combination of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices which are super easy and oh the variety! The common oil to vinegar ratio in America is 3 to 1, and in French cooking it is 2 to 1. If you like tart, a ratio of 1 to 1 will make you pucker! My preference is 2 to 1.
Choose high quality oils for your dressings. You will taste the difference. Extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil are my go-to staples. My favorite oil for vinaigrettes is extra virgin olive. It’s healthy and I love the flavor. If you aren’t a fan of the pungency, go for a milder pure olive oil. The only downside to olive oil is that it will solidify in the fridge. Simply take it out of the fridge about ½ hour before use and let it come up in temperature a bit before using. Sunflower oil is also a great choice, has a very mild flavor and does not solidify in the refrigerator. Sunflowers are native to the American southwest and were a source of fat for Native Americans, who boiled the seeds to extract their oil.
All vinegar is not created equal and comes in a variety of flavors. My personal favorites are white wine, red wine, rice, and balsamic vinegars. White and red wine vinegars have a smooth acidity without the punch of distilled vinegar and rice wine vinegar is slightly sweeter and milder. Balsamic vinegar is unique to itself with its robust sweet and savory flavor. Apple cider vinegar is another popular option, although not one of my favorites. Because they are highly acidic, most vinaigrettes will last for a couple weeks or more in the refrigerator.
And don’t limit yourself to just vinegars for your acid component. Citrus juices make excellent dressings. My all-time favorite dressings are made with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice.
Vinaigrettes will separate without the addition of an emulsifier. While an emulsifier is not necessary, two easy options which will help your dressing hold together are dijon mustard and mayonnaise. These already have emulsifiers in them.
Egg yolks are another great option. You will need to let the egg come up to room temperature before using and a stick blender will be your new favorite kitchen gadget.
My dad always put raw eggs in our milkshakes for extra creaminess, so I grew up having raw eggs on a regular basis. There is a very low possibility of getting a food borne illness from raw eggs, but not everyone is comfortable using them. The bacteria which could cause a problem are only located on the outside of the egg. If you raise your own eggs, and your chickens are well fed and healthy, a good washing of the exterior is all you need. Most commercial producers in the US wash the eggs in a germicidal solution to eliminate contamination. If you are still uncomfortable using raw eggs, you can find pasteurized eggs at most grocery stores.
There are also additives like gum arabic, xantham gum and polysorbate 80 that are great emulsifiers with different characteristics. If you are interested, this video from Modernist Pantry has great information.