A recent book on coleslaw (always one word in the South) informs us that no less than 61 percent of all coleslaw recipes in the United States are Southern; that 41 percent of the population prepare coleslaw year round; and that the salad is most often eaten with barbecue and fried chicken or fish. Without question, the major ingredient in most Southern coleslaw is shredded (not chopped, not grated) green cabbage, and the key dressings are based either on mayonnaise or vinegar. After that, the sky’s the limit on what is found in coleslaws: carrots, onions, olives, poppy seeds, raisins, apples, curry powder, pineapple, sour cream, lemon juice, and Lord knows what else. I guess I’ve tasted them all (some superlative, some ordinary, some wretched), but this buttermilk version is hard to beat, both as a side dish and as a topping on pork barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, and the like.
Remove and discard the loose outer leaves of the cabbage, cut the head into quarters, cut out and discard the hard center core, and shred the quarters into a large bowl. Shred the carrot into the bowl, then the onion, and mix well.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix till well blended and smooth. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture, toss till well blended, cover with plastic wrap, and chill about 2 hours before serving. (The slaw keeps about 5 days but becomes watery, and needs to be drained, after 2 days.)
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