Alabama Hot Slaw

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
Hot Slaw

A visit to Florence, Alabama, (and neighboring Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield) not too far across the Tennessee-Alabama border, should be on every Nashvillian’s bucket list no matter what you’re into — music, architecture, history, coon hunting, or barbecue. Or, any combo of those five things.

The area is a well-known, much-revered mecca for music lovers. Visit the childhood home and museum of W.C. Handy, the father of the blues. The FAME recording studio offers a very quirky short tour of the birthplace of Muscle Shoal’s magical sound. They haven’t even run a vacuum in there since Duane Allman played that killer solo on Wilson Pickett’s cover of “Hey Jude,” so it’s truly an authentic experience.

Dr. Dre purchased the competing Jackson Highway Studio, home of the Swampers who split from FAME, and it’s currently under renovation, but the building is worth a photo. And be sure to snap a selfie next to the historic marker in the field by the downtown Florence Hampton Inn (walking distance to Florence’s quaint food and dining district and the flagship Billy Reid), the site of the former motel where the Rolling Stones camped out while recording “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and “You Gotta Move” in 1969.Mick and Keef Muscle Shoals 1969Beyond the Swampers, you won’t believe how many famous musicians once called Alabama home. They’re all showcased in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Don’t miss a tour of the incredible Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House, built in 1939 — a shining example of Wright’s Usonian architecture and beautifully maintained by the city of Florence. The childhood home of Helen Keller (complete with the famous backyard water hand pump) is a trip back in time. And the Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard is a nice little drive through the countryside.

We are especially fond of the little family-owned neighborhood barbecue spots like Bunyan’s, Howell’s, and Brooks, homegrown and much older and more settled by far than the city slicker barbecue of New Nashville. They all feature the incredible and straightforward Alabama Hot Slaw. It’s a spicy blend of chopped cabbage with yellow mustard dressing, ideal for piling on a barbecue pork sandwich or hot dog. We strongly suggest you whip up a batch for back yard grilling or weeknight take-out pulled pork.

We’ve got two secrets to the slaw for you.

One, chop it up in a food processor so it looks more like a relish (and will sit better in a sandwich).

Two, the dressing is an even blend of yellow mustard, cider vinegar, and sugar. Add salt to taste and a big pinch of cayenne pepper. Make it a day or two ahead cuz this baby gets better with time.

A close cousin to this recipe is what is known as Pool Room Slaw from  Fayetteville, TN.  It’s also a mustard slaw except without the heat of cayenne pepper and you can shred the cabbage if you like.  Other optional additions include onion and green bell pepper, but the dressing is still a mix of yellow mustard, cider vinegar, and sugar.  Start with even amounts and then feel free to add more of any of the three ingredients as you like. Some folks even use some brown sugar instead of all white. Any slaw is definitely a recipe that you can play around with. Suit yourself.

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