A barbecue sandwich in Ayden is only a barbecue sandwich if there’s slaw on it. It’s automatic. Our slaw is a simple mayo-based slaw that is sweet and heavy on the dressing. When I say sweet, I mean that we don’t even let salt and pepper get in the way. My favorite part of the slaw is the juice that pools on the top of a batch after it’s been mixed. I could drink it by the cupful,
so I don’t like a slaw that’s not juicy.
Our slaw is so finely chopped, you could call it minced. It’s chopped in an industrial-size Hobart grinder, twenty heads of cabbage at a time. At home, you could hand chop the cabbage, but the minced texture is probably best achieved after a few pulses in a food processor.
The flavor of cabbage changes throughout the year. In the spring, the heads are fluffy. As the year goes on, they get denser, and the flavors are more concentrated. Uncle Jeff calls that “spicy cabbage,” and it tastes a little like horseradish. Don’t worry, as the sweet dressing mellows it right out.
When I was a child, my dad, who is a Baptist minister, left to go to church one evening. A guy who works for us walked up to me and said, “Hey, man, we’re about out of coleslaw.” I thought that wouldn’t be much of a problem, if only I knew how to make it. I called my dad on the phone, and everything he told me was “about.” Put about this of mustard, and put about that of mayonnaise. I thought there was no way I was about to get this slaw right, but I guess the good Lord was smiling upon me. We made it and it tasted right. The lesson there is that it’ll be fine as long as you get it “about” right.
- Quarter the cabbage by cutting down into the core. Turn each quarter on its side and cut down the edge of the solid core to remove and discard it. Peel off the outer leaves and discard as well. Cut into 1-inch chunks and, working in batches, fill a food processor with cabbage to the halfway point. Pulse six times, then run the food processor continuously for 30 to 60 seconds until the cabbage is finely chopped. Stop short of a minced paste. Chopping by hand is possible, but the texture will be a bit bulkier. Start by cutting each quarter into thin slices against the grain of the cabbage. Stack the slices three or four high and slice thinly again, against the grain of the leaves. You should be left with fine bits of cabbage.
- Place the chopped cabbage in a bowl large enough to allow some serious mixing.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, mayonnaise, salad dressing, and mustard until fully combined. Pour over the chopped cabbage, mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. This slaw is best once it sits for several hours (that’s when the precious juice rises to the top), but it’s also ready to eat immediately if need be. The slaw is best the day-of because it loses its crispness overnight, but it will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.
Reprinted with permission from Whole Hog BBQ by Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright Denny Culbert.