PICKLED EGGS & COLD SLAUGH
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.” 
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.”  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.” 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.”  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.” 
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.
BILL OF FARE FOR THE COMMERCIAL HOTEL OF MEMPHIS TENNESSEE,
MARCH 20, 1861
Calf-feet mushroom sauce.
Calf feet madeira sauce.
Stewed turkey wine sauce.
Beef's heart fricaseed.
Chicken chops robert sauce.
Breast chicken madeira sauce.
Beef kidney pickle sauce.
Cod fish baked.
Calf head wine sauce.
Oyster plant fried.
Sweet potatoes spiced.
Sweet potatoes baked.
Irish potatoes creamed and
Irish potatoes browned.
Boiled turnips drawn butter.
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. 
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
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.