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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Post PICKLED EGGS & COLD SLAUGH - By Craig L. Barry

    By Craig L. Barry

    “Then came the Civil War with all its horrors and heartaches. The women worked together scraping lint from old linens, and preparing boxes and boxes full of things for use in the hospital or for the comfort of the soldiers in the field. My mother's specialty in the way of provisions was pickled eggs. Party lines and church lines were forgotten and all worked together for the good of the soldiers. Most of the soldiers were very young, led into the army by the lure of martial music and brass buttons.” [1]

    Lettice Bryan is famous for her 1839 cookbook called The Kentucky Housewife, a book that many with an interest in mid-19th century material culture are well familiar. Her receipts (recipes) for Cold Slaugh and Warm Slaugh are Southern versions of “cabbage salad.” [2] This brings up an interesting point. The modern spelling for it is “cole slaw.” It is suggested from the name ‘Cold Slaugh’ as used in the cookbook that ‘cold’ refers to the temperature of the salad when served. The dish is often chilled as opposed to the other version called ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ slaugh. Is ‘Cold Slaugh’ then a misnomer? Furthering the confusion, the cabbage based salad can readily be found referenced in period accounts using the word ‘cold slaugh’, as in “I’d like to know if they preferred cold slaugh cut lengthwise or crosswise of the cabbage.” Also in another reference, “…torn up by the roots and chopped into cold slaugh.”[3] If not termed ‘cold slaugh’ to distinguish it from ‘warm’, what is the etymology of the word? As might be expected, it all gets murkier from here.

    The English spelling of ‘cole’ for cabbage and ‘slaw’ for slaugh is one place to start and it is certainly the source of the modern spelling. Cole derives from the Latin word ‘caulis’ (cabbage). The derivative spelling of ‘slaw’ for ‘slaugh’ is easy enough to understand as they are the same phonetically. “Slaw” is first found spelled that way (in America) where it appeared in 1861 as “a plate of slaw already vinegared.” [4] Another possibility is that the original Dutch word ‘kool-slaa’ for cabbage salad was misinterpreted as ‘cool’ or ‘cold’ based on how it was served, ‘kool’ not being understood as the Dutch word for cabbage. It was naturally assumed that it was so-called to distinguish the one cabbage salad from the other version, ‘warm’ slaugh. The correct naming convention for ‘cold slaugh’ continued to be a source of regional debate well into the late 19th century. The (Baltimore) Sun Almanac which claims to contain “…all essential information for the year and also much instruction and miscellaneous matter” attempted to settle the issue once and for all. However, in so doing it offers up a fourth alternate spelling and a different suggested heritage:

    “COLD SLAUGH vs. Cole Slaw—The word signifies “sliced cabbage," and the final and perhaps better way of spelling it is ‘kohl-slaa,' kohl being the German for cabbage and slaa for sliced. "Cold slaugh" is entirely inaccurate. “Cole slaw” is also correct; It is derived from the Saxon word caul, being the general name for plants belonging to the genus cabbage, and ‘slaw’ having the same signification as slaa. The term ‘caul’ is found in the compound cauliflower and ‘cole’ in such words as cole-wort.” [5]

    Regardless of the final proclamation on the subject by Baltimoreans, commonly understood words for favorite foods are not so easily excised from the language of any particular region, especially one as defined by its foodways as the Southern states. Respectable hotels and restaurants in the South still listed it as ‘cold slaugh’ and ‘warm slaugh’ on the menu.

    MARCH 20, 1861


    Fricasee pork.
    Calf-feet mushroom sauce.
    Bear sausages.
    Harricane tripe.
    Stewed mutton.
    Browned Rice.
    Calf feet madeira sauce.
    Stewed turkey wine sauce.
    Giblets volivon.
    Mutton omelett,
    Beef's heart fricaseed.
    Cheese macaroni.
    Chicken chops robert sauce.
    Breast chicken madeira sauce.
    Beef kidney pickle sauce.
    Cod fish baked.
    Calf head wine sauce.


    Boiled Cabbage.
    Cold Slaugh.
    Hot Slaugh.

    Pickled beets.
    Creole hominy.
    Crout cabbage,
    Oyster plant fried.
    Parsnips gravied.
    Stewed parsnips.
    Fried cabbage.
    Sweet potatoes spiced.
    Carrots, baked.
    Sweet potatoes baked.
    Cabbage stuffed.
    Onions, boiled.
    Irish potatoes creamed and
    Irish potatoes browned.
    Boiled Shallots.
    Scalloped carrots.
    Boiled turnips drawn butter.
    White beans.

    So whether the term was originally Dutch, German or Old English, however it was spelled and whether served cold or hot, this much could be agreed on; the dressing was to be vinegar based. Mayonnaise was not substituted for vinegar and the so-called ‘creamy’ versions were not popular until the early 20th century. Vinegar based dressing for ‘Cold Slaugh’ is still common in the South, no matter how it is spelled. It was not that mayonnaise was unknown during the 19th century, the first receipts for it appeared in the 1840s, but it was not popular as a salad dressing before the 20th century. [6]

    Here is Lettice Bryan’s original recipe for both Cold and Warm Slaugh, which is not much improved upon by any of the later versions or any additional ingredients:


    One head cabbage
    Whole mustard seeds, white
    Pickled eggs

    Select firm, fragile heads of cabbage (no other sort being fit for slaugh); having stripped off the outer leaves, cleave the top part of the head into four equal parts, leaving the lower part whole, so that they may not be separated till shaved or cut fine from the stalk. Take a very sharp knife, shave off the cabbage round-wise, cutting it very smoothly and evenly, and at no rate more than a quarter of an inch in width. Put the shavings or slaugh in a deep china dish, pile it high, and make it smooth; mix with enough good vinegar to nearly fill the dish, a sufficient quantity of salt and pepper to season the slaugh; add a spoonful of whole white mustard seeds, and pour it over the slaugh, garnish it round on the edge of the dish with pickled eggs, cut in ringlets. Never put butter on cabbage that is to be eaten cold, as it is by no means pleasant to the taste or sight.


    Cut them (cabbage) as for Cold Slaugh; having put in the skillet enough butter, salt, pepper and vinegar to season the slaugh very well. Put into it the seasonings stirring very fast so that it all may warm equally. And as soon as it gets hot, serve it in a deep china dish. Make it smooth and disseminate it over the yolks of hard boiled eggs that are minced fine.


    One accompaniment in the receipt for ‘Cold Slaugh’ is pickled eggs. The naming of and the reason for pickled eggs is less complicated. It is the same reason anything else was pickled, to prevent spoilage. Eggs were an important source of protein and could be easily kept for six months or longer once pickled. The only controversy with pickled eggs was what size to use. There is some anecdotal evidence that frugal cooks used smaller eggs for pickling and used the larger eggs for cooking. The practice pre-dates the Colonial period in America. They were readily found in the pantry of civilian homes as well as inns, taverns and for sale by Regimental sutlers in Civil War camps.

    This receipt for Pickled Eggs to accompany the ‘Cold Slaugh’ is also from "The Kentucky Housewife" by Lettice Bryan.

    "Boil them till they are hard; throw them into cold water immediately while hot, which will make the shells slip off smoothly without breaking the eggs. Boil some red beets till very soft; peel and mash them fine, and put enough of the juice into some plain cold vinegar to color it a fine pink; add a very little salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves; put the eggs into a jar, and transfuse the vinegar, & c. over them. They make a delightful garnish to remain whole, for poultry, game & fish & still more beautiful when cut in ringlets."

    As with the ‘Cold Slaugh’ it is hard to improve upon the original receipt in The Kentucky Housewife.


    1. Susan Short May, Journal of the Illinois Historical Society Volume 6, (Springfield, Illinois), Phillipe Bros Publishing, 1904, p. 128.
    2. Jon Egerton, Southern Food: At Home, on the Road and in History, (Chapel Hill, NC) UNC Press, 1993, p. 291.
    3. Cornelius Matthews, The Various Writings of Cornelius Matthews, (New York, NY) Harper & Bros, 1863, p. 189, Originally from 1843. See also Richard Thornton, An American Glossary Vol ume One, (Philadelphia, PA), J. Lippincott, 1912, p. 190. He defines Cold Slaugh as “a corruption of cole slaw, raw cabbage cut in shreds served with vinegar, from Du. Koolsa.”
    4. Nicoline Van Der Sijs, Cookies, Coleslaw and Stoops: The Influence of Dutch on the North American Languages, (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Amsterdam University Press, 2009, p. 125.
    5. The Baltimore Sun Almanac, (Baltimore, Maryland), Abell & Co Publishing, December 1875, p. 32.
    6. The use of mayonnaise in America rose to prominence with Richard Hellman’s “Blue Ribbon” variety produced for commercial sale beginning in 1910.

    AC Owner
    Founding Member, Mess No. 1
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Hubert, NC.

    Re: PICKLED EGGS & COLD SLAUGH - By Craig L. Barry

    I really find it amazing that food like beef kidneys, heart, and calf feet, ETC were once common staples in households across the county and today most will turn their nose up to it. A lot of people do not realize how delicious some of this stuff really is. My wife has several period recipe books and we regularly try these recipes at home providing we are able to find the necessary ingredients. Thank you for sharing this Eric. Hopefully this will inspire others to incorporate other period foods besides ham and chicken into their diets at home or at events. Cooking and eating period food is a great way to get you in touch with the culture of the period.
    Tyler Underwood
    Pawleys Island #409 AFM
    SCAR/Governor Guards, WIG

    Click here for the AC rules.

    The search function located in the upper right corner of the screen is your friend.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Re: PICKLED EGGS & COLD SLAUGH - By Craig L. Barry

    Eric, Great article and very informative


    Chad Phillips

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Rolla, MO

    Re: PICKLED EGGS & COLD SLAUGH - By Craig L. Barry

    I was amazed to see "Cheese macaroni" on the menu...outstanding!!
    C. Scott Brown
    Co M 1st MO Light Artillery Turner Brigade
    Camp Commander, SUVCW Sigel Camp #614 Dept. of MO
    Chaplain, SUVCW Dept. of MO
    Treasurer, S. Central MO Civil War Round Table
    Civil War Trust Member

    In honor of my paternal Great-grandfather, Pvt. Francis Marion Brown, Co. D, 29th IL Inf &
    my maternal Great great-grandfather, Pvt. James Madison Hendrickson, along with brothers Pvt. Thomas Jefferson Hendrickson and Pvt. Solomon Hendrickson, all of Co. G, 99th IL Inf

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Murfreesboro, TN

    Re: PICKLED EGGS & COLD SLAUGH - By Craig L. Barry

    Re: Commercial Hotel of Memphis, apparently the menu was lengthy but it was first come, first served...it appears Olmsted got the "hot slaugh" or maybe fried cabbage. He was not impressed. Note the following:

    In the 1850s, Architect Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park, traveled through the South to investigate the institution of Slavery. His observations were published in 3 volumes which were influential in turning readers against slavery. Around 1857 he traveled to Memphis, where he stayed at the Commercial Hotel. Although it was considered a first-rate establishment, things did not go well for Frederick in the dining room as his journal reveals.

    He wrote: "Being in a distant quarter of the establishment when a crash of the gong announced dinner, I did not get to the table as early as some others. The meal was served in a large, dreary room exactly like a hospital ward; and it is a striking illustration of the celerity with which everything is accomplished in our young country, that beginning with the soup, and going on by the fish to the roasts, the first five dished I inquired for...were "all gone;" and as the waiter had to go to the head of the dining room, or to the kitchen, to ascertain this fact upon each demand, the majority of the company had left the table before I started at all. At length I said I would take anything that was still to be had, and thereupon was provided immediately with some grimy bacon, and greasy cabbage. This I commenced eating, but I no sooner paused for a moment, than it was suddenly and surreptitiously removed, and its place, without the expression of any desire on my part, with some other Memphitic chef d'oeuvre, a close investigation of which left me in doubt whether it was the denominated "sliced potato pie," or "Irish pudding."

    Now, in fairness to the Commercial Hotel, Memphis had a population of 22,000 about that time and New York City (which meant Manhattan only) was around 800,000. It stands to reason the "best" hotels of New York offered a wider variety of haute cuisine during off hours.
    Last edited by Craig L Barry; 04-07-2014 at 06:45 PM.
    Craig L Barry
    Editor, The Watchdog, a non-profit 501[c]3
    Co-author (with David Burt) Suppliers to the Confederacy
    Author, The Civil War Musket: A Handbook for Historical Accuracy
    Member, Company of Military Historians

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