Taken from the Dutch words for “cabbage salad,” coleslaw has been with us in America for a very, very long time. Today, it is as popular in diners and informal restaurants as it is at home BBQs and picnics. But there’s a lot of indifference in coleslaw-making—and rarely is this crisp salad as good as it can be. At most restaurants it’s too old when it’s served—and no matter where it’s served, it’s often wet and sugary. The following recipe, if served within an hour of so of being made, will startle you with its lively freshness. And, most important, you’ll discover a new quality in coleslaw: delicacy. For I find that if you don’t take the time to shred the cabbage very, very thinly—you’re not getting coleslaw at its best.
makes enough for 6 side-dish servings
¾ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
6 firmly packed cups very thinly sliced cabbage (see NOTE)
1. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and celery seeds. Add cabbage and blend well. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like a lot of black pepper in coleslaw). Hold in refrigerator for about an hour for flavors to blend.
NOTE: There are several things to keep in mind if you’re looking for very thin shreds of cabbage. First of all, small cabbages tend to have fewer thick folds of cabbage inside than large cabbages do—so buy a small head when making coleslaw. Secondly, Savoy cabbages have more delicate leaves—so they too are better for fine-shred slaw. The most important factor of all is the way you cut the cabbage. I like to slice each cabbage in half, through the core, then in half again into quarters. Take one quarter and cut out the thick core. Look at the strata of cabbage leaves remaining; most leaves will be thin. But inside your quarter-cabbage you’ll see a few thick layers of cabbage leaves. Cut them out, or pull them out by hand. Discard. Now you’re ready to take a long, sharp knife and start shredding the cabbage quarter, cutting it into very, very fine shreds. Repeat with the remaining 3 quarters.