So I’m back in Dallas with the opportunity to compare my sour slaw recipe to the original at Highland Park Cafeteria. I’m ready to call it a draw. My concoction is as close as I’m likely to get considering the variability of different prep cooks and individual heads of cabbage.
But I still had half a cabbage and a little HPC slaw available for comparison. So I prepared a four-way back test as follows:
#1–2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar, vs. 50/50 in the base recipe.
#2–2/3 vinegar and 1/3 water, vs. 50/50 in the base recipe.
#3–50/50 water/vinegar with no brown sugar.
#4–50/50 water/vinegar with double brown sugar.
#1 and #3 were clear non-starters which was good to confirm. You need a good amount of vinegar, and you need a touch of sugar. My tasters pronounced #2 pretty good and #4 “delicious”, maybe better than the HPC. At this point our tasting supply of the HPC was almost exhausted so we just dumped #2 and #4 together. Extrapolating to the volume of the original recipe, this would be 1 1/6 c cider vinegar, 5/6 c water, and 1 1/2 T brown sugar. It tasted just great AND very close to the few shreds of HPC slaw in their liquor that remained.
I’m not changing the base recipe because it’s so close to the original, but I think I just might bring this amped-up version next time my fellow southern expat Deb Jones invites me to a potluck….
UPDATE March 2012: I’ve recently tried two more back-tests because I did not like it that my slaw ended up a little dingy vs. the snowy white in my feature photo. I tried a much shorter cure… just enough for the cabbage to start throwing off liquid, maybe 20 minutes. And I tried substituting white vinegar for cider vinegar. Neither one of these produced acceptable slaw. The short-cure slaw didn’t have the flavor complexity I wanted. And the white vinegar is just wrong. The most likely cause of the dinginess, I realized afterward, is that I’m close to the bottom of a very soupy gallon of organic cider vinegar. Back to the Heinz next time.