1 head cabbage
Whole mustard seeds, white
Pickled eggs, cut in circles
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 roundwise, 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.
From The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan, 1839
Comments: While the spelling of both the first and the last names of “coleslaw” may have changed a good bit over time, the recipe itself is still the version commonly found in many parts of the country. Mrs. Bryan suffers from the run-on-sentence syndrome all too common in cookery writers of her day, and it should be noted that the dressing–vinegar, mustard seed, etc–is to be mixed separately and then poured over the cabbage all at once. Cabbage was one of the few vegetables which could be stored over winter without canning, pickling or other preservative procedures by simply burying the heads in a barrel packed with sand and stored in the basement or cold cellar. In addition it is unusually high in Vitamin C so probably kept some of our ancestors protected against scurvy over the winter.