Of all our excellent cabbage dishes, cole slaw is certainly the most widely known. The old standby is an all-American favorite made in an amazing number of variations that are easy to prepare and always in season.
Dutch settlers introduced kool sla (cabbage salad) to the colony of New Amsterdam in the early 1600's and ever since it has been served in our country as a salad, relish or appetizer.
In other countries cole slaw is regarded as an American creation. Certainly our cooks developed so many kinds of slaw that each region has a specialty and there are hundreds of different slaws prepared and served throughout the country.
Although cole slaw, also called cold slaw, kohslaw, cabbage salad and cabbage slaw, is generally made with shredded green cabbage, it can be prepared with red cabbage or a combination of red and green cabbage.
Slaws can also include other ingredients such as minced green pepper, pimientos or carrots that are in traditional recipes. Others call for the addition of apples, pineapple, pears, cucumbers, celery, grapes, blanched almonds, pecans, hard-cooked eggs, or cheese (Swiss, cheddar or Roquefort).
Probably the most elaborate slaw is one called heavenly slaw or Virginia City slaw which includes, besides the cabbage, pineapples tidbits, miniature marshmallows and slivered blanced almonds that are topped with a snow dressing made primarily of whipped egg whites.
There are numerous slaws which may be hot or cold, crisp or wilted, moistened with French dressing, mayonnaise, salad dressing, boiled dressing, sweet or sour cream, buttermilk, chili sauce or catsup, and seasoned with pickles, crisp bacon, Worrcestershire sauce, dry or prepared mustard, soy sauce, green or yellow onions, horseradish, curry powder, ginger, anise seed, chives, lemon juice, vinegar, dillweed or dill seed, parsely, celery, caraway or mustard seeds.
Although the preparation of any kind of cole slaw is easy, there are a few reliable basic guidelines to follow. Choose best quality cabbage that is firm, crisp and of good color. Cut the cabbage properly. Remove any wilted leaves and cut into halves; remove core and trim any tough ribs. Cut into quarters. To shred, place cabbage, cut side down, on a wooden board or flat surface and hold with left hand. With a large knife slice quickly into very fine shreds. Or use a vegetables shredder. The cabbage may also be grated coarsely.
What to do next with the cabbage is a matter of preference. Some cooks wash, drain and dry the cabbage and put in the refrigerator until ready to moisten with a dressing if a crisp cole slaw is desired. Some chill the cabbage in ice water, with or without lemon juice, 30 minutes or longer to crisp it. If so, dry well and chill. Just before serving, moisten and add seasonings.
For a wilted slaw, mix dry grated cabbage with a dressing and any other ingredients and let stand in refrigerator until ready to serve. For a hot slaw, combine hot dressing with cabbage and serve at once.
For extra flavor, make cole slaw a day ahead of time so the dressing and cabbage blend well. Keep slaw covered in the refrigerator; it improves as it mellows.
The amount of dressing to use for a slaw is a matter of personal taste. Some cooks use equal amounts of shredded cabbage and dressing; others prefer less dressing. The ingredients and dressing should be stirred will and constantly so the cabbage is completely moistened.
Cole slaw is a good accompaniment for many foods but especially fish and shell-fish.
Here are some traditional American cole slaw recipes. EASY COLE SLAW (Serves 4 to 6) 4 cups finely shredded green cabbage 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice 1/2 cup mayonnaise or 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper Combine ingredients in a bowl and put in refrigerator, covered, at least 2 hours. Toss again just before serving. NOTE: Add 1 tablespoon grated onion, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed and/or 1/2 cup minced green peper, if desired. OLD-FASHIONED COLE SLAW (Serves 4 to 6) 2 tablespoons flour 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoons dry mustard Few grains cayene 1 egg, beaten 3/4 cup light cream or milk 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine 1/4 cup cider vigenar 4 cups finely shredded green cabbage Combine dry ingredients in top of a double boiler. Mix together egg, milk and butter. Gradually add to try ingredients, stiring as adding, and cook slowly over simmering water, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar; cool. Mix with shredded cabbage and serve or keep in refrigerator, covered, to mellow. RED AND WHITE COLE SLAW (Serves 4 to 6) 2 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage 1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage 2 tablespoons sugar 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice About 1/2 cup French or salad dressing 3/4 teaspoon celery seeds Salt, pepper to taste Put green adn red cabbage and sugar in a bowl; mix well. Cover and refrigerator 30 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients and mix with cabbages just before the serving. Toss to thoroughly combine. COUNTRY COLE SLAW (Serves 4 to 6) 4 slices bacon, diced 1/4 cup cider vinegar 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup sour cream at room temperature 4 cups shredded green cabbage 1/2 cup minced green pepper 1 small onion, peeled and minced Fry bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Add vinegar and salt and stir well. Add to sour cream and combine with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour or longer. OHIO COLE SLAW (Serves 4 to 6) 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, butter or margarine 1/4 cup cider vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds 1/2 cup minced raw carrots 6 green onions, cleaned and sliced, with tops 4 cups shredded green cabbage 3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley Heat bacon drippings in a small saucepan. Add vinegar and sugar and stir well. Remove from heat and combine with remaining ingredients. Serve at once or refrigerate to mellow.