Updated July 11, 2012 12:00 PM

My favorite thing about the 4th of July is knowing that I’m going to spend it with people I love. Great food and good times with family and friends always seem to go together in my life. That’s why, when I have my mama’s coleslaw, even if it’s not on a national holiday, I smile and feel that comfort and love.

Coleslaw is one of those southern dishes whose recipe varies region by region. There are more varieties of coleslaw than there are shades of pink! Mama always made this side for summer barbecues, weekend cookouts and especially for the 4th of July holiday. Her recipe is unique in that, unlike a lot of other coleslaw recipes which are heavy on sugar, it gets its sweetness from the sweet salad pickles. I think that lets the flavors of the carrots and cabbage shine through.

Like most of my family recipes, this one works because it’s simple and has just a few key ingredients. I like to make this slaw the night before I’m going to serve it, to let all the flavors meld together and to ensure that it’s nice and cold the next day.

Mostly, when I think about summer holidays, it makes me smile to remember all the laughter and fun my family has shared. Really, that’s what it’s all about. As I get older, I also realize that making these family favorites and passing down the recipes to my children and my niece and nephews is an important way to stay connected to those who have passed on. Every time I take a bite of this coleslaw, I smile when I remember that this was one of my mama’s favorite dishes. I know this year, as I sit on my back porch watching the fireworks light up the night sky, she’ll be looking down, enjoying them right along with me.

Happy 4th of July, everybody!


Makes: 6 servings Hands-on time: 15 min. Total time: 1 hour 15 min.

A note from Trisha: This slaw also makes a great side for pulled-pork sandwiches. I put a little mustard on my sandwich and top it off with a little bit of slaw … a coleslaw pork barbecue sandwich! Trust me: You will LOVE it!

1 (2-lb.) head green cabbage

1 large carrot, peeled

½ small sweet onion, finely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sweet pickle relish

½ tsp. salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove and discard outside leaves from head of cabbage. Cut cabbage into quarters; remove core. Coarsely grate cabbage and carrot using shredding blade of food processor or coarse side of a hand grater.

2. Combine cabbage, carrot and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, tossing well. Cover and chill 1 hour before serving.