Wednesday, June 19, 2013

For Your Next Picnic: Grandma Cameron's Coleslaw

Though my siblings, my mother and her siblings, and certain in-laws of my father (see here) all have mad skills in the kitchen that have informed my own palate and culinary style, neither of my grandmothers - wonderful and talented as they were in other ways - was known for her kitchen exploits. My maternal grandmother made traditional Colombian food on occasion, but she wasn't much of an eater, frankly, unless that which was being eaten was deep-fried and heavily coated in sugar, so she probably didn't have much personal motivation where food preparation was concerned (I find my love for all things food is the greatest motivator for me in the kitchen), plus she was pretty busy using her brighter talents (she was an amazing seamstress). My paternal grandmother - well, I guess it wasn't quite accurate to say she wasn't known for her kitchen exploits. She was known for them. They were worthy of much teasing, in fact. She was a rather dreadful cook but a good baker, mostly of cookies and of course, as she was a native Minnesotan, bars. I did so like her cookies and bars.

Anyway. Until I got married, I didn't have "grandma's recipe for [fill in the blank]." Grandma's recipe for chocolate chip cookies was probably the one on the back of the Tollhouse bag (no shame in that though).

Cole slaw and cakeCole slaw and cake

My husband's paternal grandmother, however, is a rather inspired cook. She raised five boys on a farm and cooked the way all the latest cookbooks with catchwords like locavore, farmer's market, "farm to table", seasonal, et cetera, tell you to cook. She gardens and cans and pickles and bakes and saves bones and stalks and rinds to throw in her soups. She uses what she grows and sends the rest home with whoever stops by. And her food is really good. It's v. typically midwestern -  a nice blend of novel and comforting to me, even after 11 years as a Minnesota resident - but a little richer in some ways. She doesn't ever skimp on sugar or seasoning.

This cole slaw recipe is one of my favorites. I never liked cole slaw growing up because I hate mayonnaise and I didn't think you could make cole slaw without it. Grandma Cameron corrected me. I love cole slaw the way she makes it - it's creamy despite absence of mayo or dairy, and it usually has twice as much sugar as is written into the recipe below - but, over the years, I've reduced the sugar a little more each time until I figured how little I could get away with while still loving the dressing.

The addition of dried cranberries is inspired by the fish fry down the road from my friend Lindsey's cabin. I miss that fish fry. Grandma Alice sure would have liked their sugar-dusted fry bread.


Grandma Cameron's Coleslaw
Yields: about 1.5 cups dressing + 8 cups slaw (enough to share at a big potluck)

For dressing
1/2 cup mild-flavored oil (I use sunflower or grapeseed usually, but mild olive oil would be fine)
1/4 cup sugar (you could use up to 1/4 cup more sugar if you want it super sweet)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 an onion, chopped into a few chunks
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seeds (could sub 1 teaspoon yellow mustard)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (I sometimes use the ground ones from Penzey's)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For slaw
1 small purple or green cabbage or a mix, sliced as thinly as you can manage
2 carrots, shredded or ribboned with a vegetable peeler
1 cup dried cranberries

Blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth. Toss vegetables with half the dressing, add more as you see fit and serve the rest on the side.

If you want an even creamier dressing, you could use 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream + 1/4 cup oil instead of 1/2 cup oil.

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