Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Science & Creativity Behind Great Coleslaw

We had a great cabbage crop this fall and so I have been experimenting with any coleslaw variations and recipes. This has been a very tasty and healthy fall. We are now heading into the heart of winter and we still have about 120 heads of cabbage left.

So how does this delightful salad called coleslaw work?

There are two main variations of coleslaw sweet'n'sour and creamy. The meat in a dish is the main focal point but I have often chosen a dish or even a restaurant based on their coleslaw recipe.

Preparation of the cabbage, carrots and onions is essential, the finer you cut them the more liquid will be created when the slaw sits. You need to adjust the recipe for this. A finer cut of the slaw means the dressing will be diluted more, so make it a little stronger.

Most slaw combinations taste better when they sit over night. The dressing diffuses into the vegetables and the liquid from the vegetables mixes with the dressing. All of these flavor components are under your control. If you like it more sweet add more sugar (or stevia). If you like it more creamy add more yogurt or mayonnaise. Want it more tart add a little more vinegar.

You can play with the colors by adding more peppers, radishes, and red versus green cabbage.

Additional crunch can be developed by keeping the cabbage coarse and adding nuts. I like pecans or walnuts.

Fruit can also be used to good advantage in a slaw. Dried fruit like cranberries or cherries are great. Fresh fruit like apples, oranges or pears enhance the sweetness of the slaw, add crunch and color. You can cut a fine or coarse as you wish, Apples and pears will not brown if a little lemon juice is used.

Any good quality mayonnaise will work for a creamy slaw. I prefer Greek yogurt as the dressing if is less sweet. If you have the time and want to experiment, make your own mayonnaise. It is not difficult and the fresh eggs and oils will knock your socks off.

Green onions are great in a slaw but are out of season during the winter months. Small amounts of regular onion can be substitute or use a sweet onion like Walla Walla. You can also use a shallot and let the delicate flavors blend. The onion flavor will get stronger as it sits so use sparingly. If you want to add a little garlic flavor, toast the garlic.

Speaking of toasting, you can toast the cabbage on a cookie sheet turning several times after 5-7 minutes. Use the broiler setting on your oven. This sweetens the cabbage even more and adds a smokey flavor and crunchy texture. You are not trying to cook the cabbage only toast it.

Like your favorite BBQ sauce, a good coleslaw is subject to your individual tastes. There are lots of  combinations for you to play with. So have fun.

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