The Basics of Coleslaw
Basically, coleslaw is defined as a salad made with chopped or shredded raw cabbage as the main ingredient, usually mixed with shredded carrots and other vegetables and dressed with mayonnaise. My version, Southern Coleslaw, fits the basic definition of coleslaw but adds white wine vinegar to the dressing, as well as finely chopped onion, bell pepper and celery seed for seasoning. Occasionally a coleslaw recipe will include pineapple or apple, nuts, and grated cheese.
Many countries around the world have their own version of coleslaw – in fact the word coleslaw means “cabbage salad” in Dutch. I found it interesting that in Sweden coleslaw is served with pizza and they call it “pizza salad.”
In the Southern United States, coleslaw is traditionally eaten with fish, especially fried fish, and seafood. Restaurants that primarily serve fish and seafood are often called “fish camps.” Coleslaw is also served with BBQ Pork, as a side dish or in the case of a BBQ Pork Sandwich served right on the bun. There is even a Red Slaw, also known as BBQ Slaw, made to accompany Lexington-style North Carolina barbequed pork. Fried Chicken is yet another food with which Southern Coleslaw is served. (In fact I often see “copycat” recipes on the internet for KFC coleslaw!) Southern Coleslaw is also served with hot dogs and hamburgers.
When I was in elementary school, I was served coleslaw in which the cabbage and carrots were minced as finely as those vegetables could be minced. (I don’t know how they got the pieces of carrot and cabbage so small!) I’ve always remembered it and any time now that I’m served coleslaw of that consistency I refer to if affectionately as “elementary school coleslaw.” There is one seafood restaurant in Charlotte that has elementary school coleslaw and this particular restaurant does not call itself a “fish camp” for whatever reason!
The Recipe for Southern Coleslaw
- 1 medium head cabbage, shredded
- 2 carrots, peeled & shredded
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss until mayonnaise and white wine vinegar are evenly coating the other ingredients. Chill for several hours before serving.
- I use a food processor to shred the cabbage and carrots, and chop the onion. However, I recommend chopping the bell pepper with a knife for best results.
Celery Seeds are one of my favorite spices to use to flavor coleslaw, egg salad, potato salad and chicken salad. I really like the taste of Celery Seeds! Celery Seeds are found in the flowers of the celery plant, are very small, range from tan to brown in color, and have a strong, pleasant aroma. Celery Seeds were used in ancient medicine to treat colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion and arthritis. Unfortunately there are no recent human scientific studies that verify these claims. I was encouraged to learn that there have been studies that show that Celery Seeds act as a mosquito repellent! (Mosquitos love me – Ugh!) The studies didn’t say whether you had to eat the Celery Seeds or douse yourself with them! I’ll have to do a little more research on that one!
Make some Southern Coleslaw soon and serve it with anything – it’s a very versatile side dish! Remember cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, which is important in cancer prevention. (See my recent post Scalloped Cabbage – Retro Recipe for information about cruciferous vegetables.)
Remember to Savor the Flavor!
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