Coleslaw can be a tricky thing. Bad slaws are watery and bland, but a good one provides a perfect sweet-and-tangy, crunchy counterpoint to a wide variety of rich and salty BBQ foods, my favourite being pulled pork. Good slaw hinges on good technique — which you can read all about here — and the best slaws are the usually the simplest, ingredients-wise.
My favourite slaw, however, is the one my stepmom makes — because she puts a little bit of pepper jelly in it. For those unfamiliar with this jelly: It’s exactly what it sounds like — a sweet and spicy, jiggly spread that is transcendent when poured over a block of cream cheese and eaten with Wheat Thins. It also makes a great ham glaze, and — as you now know — a fantastic coleslaw addition.
Much like everyone else in my entire family, my stepmom does not measure the amount of pepper jelly she adds to her slaw. For one, it depends on the jelly she’s using. Her homemade pepper jelly is thicker and hotter than the store-bought stuff, so a little goes a long way. The sweet heat complements the tangy vinegar, giving the standard side a bit of an edge. (She says she first got the idea from a Southern Living recipe, but not this one, as she has never added cilantro to her slaw.)
Since pepper jellies can vary in heat and consistency, it’s best to add it to taste just before serving, as too much can make your slaw watery if you’re not careful. (Pre-salting and blotting your vegetables can also help prevent your slaw from sogging out.)
Other than that, it’s simply a matter of adding the jelly, small spoonfuls at a time, to the dressed slaw until you nail that balance of sweet and heat. (You could also whisk it into the dressing, but I don’t know what kind of recipe you’re working with, and I would hate to throw off your ratios.) Pile it on a pulled pork sandwich, eat it alongside some BBQ chicken, or just shovel it in your mouth directly from the serving bowl, proper etiquette be damned.