Sour slaw is one of the most unforgiving of all foodstuffs. Too much time in the cure and it becomes wilted; too little and it has an unpleasant barnyard taste and smell. And since the cabbage itself varies from one prep to the next, it’s impossible to hard-code an ideal ratio of water, sugar and cider vinegar for the nectar-like marinade. Even Highland Park Cafeteria has been known to slip up on occasion and offer an off-quality version of its gem.
I hadn’t made sour slaw in a while and thought I was in control when I whipped up a batch this week, but it lacked something. Carving off small portions for experimentation, I tried adding MSG (took it in the wrong direction), extra salt (needed only if the initial cure wasn’t long enough, which this was) and ground black pepper (not traditional, but a sprinkle can’t hurt). Then, with trembling hands, I reached for something that often shows up in online recipes from apparently reputable Southern cooks but is definitely not used at HPC: oil. Specifically, the jug of Wesson vegetable oil.
That was it. Just a splash was needed to round out the sweet/sour taste, adjust the mouth feel, and help the dressing adhere to each forkful instead of dripping back into the bowl. New Years is supposed to be a time of rethinking old habits, and here is the proof of why this is a meritorious thing to do. If you happen to like the low-caloric nature of the original sour slaw, this won’t change it much because you need no more than 1/4 cup against a full cup each of water and vinegar.