COLESLAW, not apple pie, is really our most national dish; we have been eating coleslaws in this country for well over 200 years. The older recipes used cooked dressings, usually with egg yolks in them. Today, most dressings are mayonnaise or cream-based and uncooked. The least common type of dressing is a vinaigrette, yet ironically that is the dressing preferred by 12 of 15 food writers surveyed.

The first recipe below is for a vinaigrette-dressed slaw. The next two, culled from cookbooks of the last century, are still delicious and worth trying--a wilted slaw, most unusual, from Mrs. Crowen (1847) and a cooked sour cream slaw from Mrs. Rorer (circa 1870). Following a beer-flavored coleslaw and a slaw with cucumbers and onions, is Harriet Coe's Mustard Ring with Coleslaw, a gelatin ring highly flavored with mustard and generously sweetened, then filled with a slaw made with a boiled dressing. COLESLAW WITH VINAIGRETTE DRESSING (6 to 8 servings) 1 head cabbage, cored and shredded 1 1/2 cups light olive oil Juice of a lemon 1 tablespoon vinegar Salt (if desired) Freshly ground black pepper 1 carrot, scraped and shredded

Soak the cabbage in ice water for an hour, then drain, pat dry and set aside. Combine the oil, lemon juice and vinegar and mix well. Season dressing with salt, if using, and generously with freshly ground black pepper. Mix the cabbage with the shredded carrot, then toss with the dressing. MRS. CROWEN'S WILTED COLESLAW (6 to 8 servings) 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded very thinly 6 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup wine vinegar

Soak the cabbage in ice cold water for half an hour. Drain well. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan which has a tight fitting lid, then drain the cabbage well and add it to the pan. Cover tightly and place over high heat. Every minute or so, grab the handle securely, hold the lid tightly in place, and shake the slaw vigorously so that the juices at the bottom go through the cabbage. In about 5 to 6 minutes the cabbage will be just wilted and the flavors of the butter and vinegar will have permeated the cabbage. Serve at once. SOUR CREAM SLAW (8 servings)

This recipe comes from Sarah Tyson Rorer, culinary editor of The Ladies' Home Journal from 1897 to 1908. The recipe dates from 1870 or a little earlier. 1 small head cabbage, cored and shredded finely Ice water 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 4 eggs 1 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Salt (optional) Freshly ground black pepper

Measure 1 quart shredded cabbage into a large bowl and cover with ice water. Let soak for 1 hour. Reserve the remaining cabbage for another use.

While cabbage is soaking, warm the vinegar in a saucepan placed over medium heat. Beat the eggs until thick and lemon-colored, then add the sour cream to the eggs. Add the butter to the vinegar and stir until melted, then add the egg mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring, without boiling until mixture just begins to thicken. Season with salt (optional) and pepper. As soon as sauce thickens, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl to cool. When cool combine with the cabbage. DRUNKEN COLESLAW (6 servings) 1 head cabbage, cored and finely shredded 1/2 small onion, finely chopped 1/2 red or yellow sweet bell pepper (green peppers can be used if others are not available), finely chopped 1 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup beer 1 teaspoon celery seed Salt (optional) Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cabbage, onion and pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine the mayonnaise with the beer and celery seed, and season lightly with salt, if using, and pepper.

Combine the cabbage and the mayonnaise, mix well and taste. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until serving time. COLESLAW WITH CUCUMBERS AND ONIONS (8 to 10 servings) 1 small head green cabbage 3 large cucumbers Salt 2 medium onions 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise 1 1/2 cups sour cream Salt

Core the cabbage, then cut into shreds about a quarter of an inch wide. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Peel the cucumbers, then cut off an inch at each end and discard the bitter tips. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut the cucumbers into strips about a quarter of an inch wide. Sprinkle the cucumbers liberally with salt and set aside for an hour or so.

Peel the onions and cut into rings about a quarter of an inch wide. Cut each ring in half. Soak the onion strips in very icy water (Barely cover with water, then add lots of ice cubes).

While the cucumbers are being salted and the onions are soaking, prepare the mayonnaise by combining with the sour cream. Rinse the cucumbers and pat dry on paper toweling. Drain and dry the onions. Combine the cabbage with the onions and cucumbers and dress with the mayonnaise. Season with salt, if using, and pepper. Refrigerate until serving time. HARRIET COE'S MUSTARD RING WITH COLESLAW (8 servings) Mustard Ring: 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon dijon mustard 3 tablespoons dry mustard 1 teaspoon salt 1 envelope unflavored gelatin 1/4 cup cold water 3/4 cup wine vinegar 4 eggs, lightly beaten 1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff Boiled Dressing: 1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon flour 2/3 cup vinegar 1/3 cup water 6 tablespoons butter, melted 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped 1 medium cabbage, finely chopped

Make the mustard ring first. Mix the sugar, mustards and salt. Soften the gelatin in the cold water, then melt over hot water. Combine gelatin with the vinegar, beaten eggs and dry ingredients, and stir over hot water until thickened. Cool completely. Fold in the whipped cream and pour into a 6-cup ring mold rinsed in cold water. Chill.

For the dressing, mix the sugar and flour in the top of a double boiler and add the vinegar, water and butter. Stir in the beaten eggs and cook, stirring, until thick and smooth. Cool completely. Fold in the whipped cream. Blend the shredded cabbage and dressing.

Unmold the ring onto a serving dish and fill center with this coleslaw.