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Will the real coleslaw please stand up...


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Cabbage, Brassica Oleracea
Cabbage, Brassica...
Ed Webber
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Various Types of Cabbage in a Strainer
Various Types of Cabbage
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Still Life of Cabbages, Carrot and Turnips
Still Life of Cabbages, Carrot and Turnips
William Hughes
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It really got my attention while composing the All-American Barbecue Menu recently that there was only one slaw recipe in the LBC archives. And none whatsoever called "Coleslaw". How could that be??? Simple. Never could decide which one to publish first. And that is the truth. The kind of “coleslaw” I prefer
is what I used to make (and consume in great quantity) in Germany. No recipe.
Just observed and assisted my former mother-in-law and various former sisters-
in-law and went from there.

And that reminds me. I have read here and there that the origin of the name “coleslaw” comes from the Dutch “koolsla”. Emeril says that means “cool cabbage”. Perhaps it does. And is it ‘”coleslaw” or “cole slaw”? Depends
on where you look, whom you ask, does it not?
What I believe is that “coleslaw” is the Americanization of the German
term “Kohlsalat”. Coleslaw. We called it Krautsalat. Same difference.
Cabbage salad. I love what Mimi Sheraton has to say about cabbage
(Kohl oder Kraut) in her classic

German Cookbook:
A Complete Guide to Mastering
Authentic German Cooking
by Mimi Sheraton, 1972, Random House


“Both Kohl and Kraut denote cabbage in Germany, although strictly speaking
they are not synonymous. Kohl is cabbage, and everything in that family is some
kind of Kohl. Cauliflower is Blumenkohl or flower cabbage; kale is Gruenkohl…; common white cabbage is Weisskohl; red cabbage is Rotkohl, while curly, mild-flavored savoy is Wirsing. [What happened to the “Kohl”?] Kraut, literally, is
a purée or concentration of any fruit or vegetable; shredded cabbage is Kraut.
When shredded cabbage is pickled or sour, it becomes sauerkraut. The cabbage family is far and away the favorite vegetable group in Germany and there are
an enormous number of recipes for each variety. It is so popular, in fact, that
many sayings and maxims are based on it. ‘An old story’ in Germany is
‘aufgewaermter Kohl’ (warmed-over cabbage)…”

About the only thing I know for sure about coleslaw is that the primary
ingredient must be cabbage. After that, the variations appear to be endless.
And folks tend to be adamant about the “right way” to make it. Sort of like
the potato salad debate. Or gumbo, or jambalaya. Creamy dressing vs.
vinegar dressing could start a family feud. This is what Mama Mizzi did:

Select one fairly large. very firm  head of white cabbage. Remove the outer leaves, quarter the cabbage, and remove the core. Shred the cabbage on a Krauthobel. What? You don’t have a Krauthobel? Well, you can either
slice the cabbage very, very thinly by hand, use your mandoline (should
you be so fortunate) or resort to the trusty old food processor. Place this huge mound of shredded cabbage (it smells marvelous!) in a large bowl
and sprinkle it generously with salt (about 1 tablespoon). Then cover it
with boiling water. Let it stand for 1 hour. This is really important. The cabbage will not be cooked, but it will be softened, and its natural flavor
will be enhanced. Drain the cabbage very well and place it once again in a large bowl. Add one medium onion, diced, and 1 or 2 Golden Delicious
apples (depending on how much cabbage you wound up with), peeled and thinly sliced. We are going to add vinegar and oil, but it will be difficult for me to tell you how much. At least twice as much oil as vinegar, though,
and the vinegar MUST be good-quality, mild wine vinegar. Not the kind
that takes your breath away when you get a whiff of it. Start by sprinkling the cabbage with about 2 tablespoons of vinegar and adding twice as much oil. That will probably be enough. We will finish the salad with either heavy cream or sour cream. I generally use sour cream. How much? Depends on how much cabbage you have, right? Enough sour cream to dress the salad nicely, not to leave it drowning in sloppy dressing. Start with 1/4 cup and
go from there. Toss the salad very well. Taste it, of course, and add more
salt if necessary, white pepper if you like, and perhaps a minimal sprinkling of sugar, just enough to enhance the flavors. We are not looking for sweet.
It is best to let the salad stand about an hour or so at room temperature before serving. Feeds quite a few hungry folks.

In many parts of the Deep South and in the Midwest, you will find a penchant
for something called “Boiled Dressing”. This is the way lots of folks prefer to
dress their coleslaw...

 Creamy Cole Slaw

the Best of the Old and the New
From Midwest Kitchens
by Marcia Adams, 1991, Clarkson N. Potter


Makes 5 to 6 servings

“In Missouri, as it is nearly everywhere in the Midwest, cole slaw is mostly creamy style. It is generally made with sweetened mayonnaise, but there is a school of
slaw makers who still prepare a boiled dressing, the early forerunner of commer-
cial bottled salad dressings like Miracle Whip. It is a tradition worth reviving. Laced with dry mustard, boiled dressing is good on potato salad; thinned with additional cream, it can also be served with roast pork, ham, or fish.”

Boiled Dressing
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
3 tablespoons light cream [such as
half-and-half] or milk

Cole Slaw
6 cups shredded green cabbage
(about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 large carrot, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
(about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
[this is a key ingredient for me]
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

In a small [nonreactive] saucepan, beat the eggs thoroughly; add the
sugar, flour, salt, and mustard. Combine the vinegar and water and beat
into the egg mixture, then add the butter or olive oil, and cook over low
heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 5 to 8 minutes. The mixture
will become very lumpy; not to worry – just beat it until it is smooth.
When very thick, remove from the heat and add the cream or milk.
(This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.)
In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and seasonings. Add the
cooled dressing and toss lightly to combine.

Note: If you prefer not to make the boiled dressing, you can substitute the following: 1 cup commercial mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup cider
vinegar; combine, pour over the slaw ingredients, and toss. [Or you might
want to give Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing a try, if it is still around.]


This is the other take on coleslaw – not the creamy kind.
The vinegary kind. The Carolina kind.

Carolina Coleslaw
Mrs. Oscar McCollum of
Rockingham County, North Carolina

The Grass Roots Cookbook:
Great American Recipes from
Kitchens Across the Land

by Jean Anderson, 1992, Doubleday


Makes 6 to 8 servings

“This isn’t a fancy recipe,” says Mrs. McCollum. “But we like it.
And it gets better and better the longer it sits in the refrigerator.”

1 large cabbage (about 3 pounds),
trimmed, quartered and cored
1 medium-sized sweet green pepper,
cored, seeded and minced
(for color, use 1/2 green pepper
and 1/2 red pepper)
1 medium-sized sweet onion
(Bermuda or Spanish) peeled
and chopped fine

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil

1. With a sharp knife, slice each cabbage quarter very fine; combine
with green pepper and onion in a large bowl and toss to mix.
2. For the dressing: Mix sugar, salt, mustard and celery seed in a small saucepan, add vinegar and oil and let come to a boil over moderate
heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over cabbage and toss well
to mix. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until
ready to serve.


Use the dressing from “German Coleslaw”
(Mrs. Russell Harris of McLean County, Illinois)

“ ‘You’ll not go wrong in making the German sweet-sour dishes,’ says Mrs.
Harris, ‘if you use equal parts sugar, water, and vinegar.’  It’s a lesson she
learned from her mother and one she uses today whether she is pickling
beets or making coleslaw, lettuce or potato salad.”

Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons hot water, stirring until
sugar dissolves; stir in 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon celery
seed, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Pour vinegar mixture over
slaw and toss well; drizzle in 1/4 cup vegetable oil and toss well again.
Cover slaw and let marinate in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours before
serving. Toss well again before dishing up.


Interestingly enough, the following recipe is very, very close to
Mimi Sheraton’s Weisskohlsalat…

Wilted Slaw with Bacon Dressing

The Heritage of Southern Cooking:
An Inspired Tour of Southern
Cuisine Including Regional Specialties
by Camille Glenn, 1986, Reprint 2007
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.


“This is a true country salad for the deep South that is right in tune with our
old-fashioned vegetables and meats – but quite out of tune with today’s ‘count
your calories’ cooking. But oh, how delicious these old-fashioned dishes can
be! Delicious and heart-warming. I think I shall have this salad tonight.”

Serves 4

6 thick slices very lean bacon
1/2 small head tender green cabbage
3 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Cook the bacon in the oven until cooked through but not brittle,
15 to 18 minutes (or sauté in a heavy skillet).
3. In the meantime, shred the cabbage and chop it rather fine. You
should have 6 cups.
4. Remove the bacon, reserving the fat, and chop. Set aside.
5. Combine the bacon fat, vinegar, water, and sugar in a small
saucepan. Heat, and add salt to taste.
6. When you are ready to serve the salad, pour the warm dressing
over the shredded cabbage. Toss with the chopped bacon and add
pepper to taste.

Note: The German people in Louisville (and there are many) like to
sprinkle celery seed on this salad. If bacon is tossed into salads too
soon, it becomes soggy and limp.

But wait! There's more...

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