Freezer Slaw for Winter Salads

For those of us wishing to live as self-sufficiently as possible, homegrown winter salads are a challenge. However, if you have access to a freezer, preserving garden cabbage as freezer slaw helps quell the desire for a crunchy, crisp salad in the depth of winter. Here’s how we make freezer slaw for winter salads.

Slaw Ready to Package for Freezer

Slaw Ready to Package for Freezer

Slaw From the Freezer – Really?

We’ve always grown lots of cabbages, as many as 12 to 15 heads of storage type cabbage each season, and we’re only a household of 2. It’s a versatile vegetable which can be used in numerous soups including Cabbage Sausage Soup, cooked side dishes such as baked cabbage, entrees such as New England Boiled Dinner or cabbage rolls, not to mention salads such as various versions of cole slaw. It can also be preserved for long term storage by several methods: fermenting it into sauerkraut, blanching it for the freezer and/or by root cellaring it.

We’ve preserved it all 3 ways making as much as 20 pounds of sauerkraut at a time. Blanched cabbage only works in cooked dishes such as soups so forget about trying to use it for salad timber. The root cellars at our 2 previous homesteads were less than ideal and didn’t keep cabbage very long so we were always cabbageless by early January. Here at our third and final place we made the construction of a proper root cellar a priority. As a result we have cabbage until the end of February/early March making it the mainstay of some good winter salads but once that supply is exhausted we still have months to go before the first fresh greens are available. What to do in the meantime? Freezer slaw is the answer.

Making Freezer Slaw

One day, about 15 years ago when we were homesteading in northern Saskatchewan, I was flipping through my Ball Blue Book of Preserving and chanced upon the recipe for freezer slaw. My first reaction was one of doubt. How good can that be? What would the texture of the cabbage be like? After being frozen then thawed, wouldn’t it be mushy instead of crisp?

Ultimately I decided to take the plunge and try it but I cut the recipe in half in case it turned out to be lousy. I waited until a cold mid-winter day when we were hankering for some crunch in our diets before we tried the concoction. With trepidation, I thawed out a container expecting the worst. Imagine our surprise and delight to find the product not only tasty but crisp and crunchy. I had found a way to add more variety as well as texture to our winter meals. Thus freezer slaw became a staple I always put by for the winter.

Ingredients and Equipment to Make Freezer Slaw

Ingredients and Equipment to Make Freezer Slaw

Here’s the recipe as found in my Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It makes about 5 pints.

2 pounds cabbage

1 large green pepper

3 large carrots

¾ cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon canning salt

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup water

Shred cabbage, green pepper and carrots. Add onion. Sprinkle with salt. Let stand 1 hour. Drain (I seldom if ever have any liquid to drain away)

Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil and boil 3 minutes. Cool. Pour liquid over cabbage mixture. Let stand 5 minutes then stir well. Pack into freezer container of choice leaving ½” headroom. Seal, label and freeze.


For the most part, my freezer slaw consists mainly of green cabbage but I’ve also used shredded red cabbage as part of the 2 pounds the recipe calls for. The results have been quite satisfactory.

Garden Veggies for Freezer Slaw

Garden Veggies for Freezer Slaw

Usually I’ll get the slaw made sometime in the late summer/early fall using a head that has matured too soon and is starting to split. No way could I keep a split cabbage on hold from September until the end of October/early November when I whisk the heads for storage into the root cellar. Not only that, a split cabbage has no long term storage life so making freezer slaw out of it is a good way to preserve it.

Although the recipe calls for green pepper, you can certainly use red, yellow or orange pepper in its place or as part of the green pepper called for. I’ve done this and it works well. Naturally the flavor will be slightly different when mature, colored peppers are used versus green ones. If making more that one batch, you may want to do a batch with green peppers and do the other with red peppers just for a change in taste.

The recipe does call for quite a bit of sugar but I’ve been reluctant to decrease it for fear the texture may be adversely affected. My thought is the sugar may help maintain the crunchy texture, but I don’t know this for sure. If you decide to experiment with less sugar or a sugar substitute, I would make half a batch and see how it turns out.

We are happy with the flavor of the slaw that the recipe produces, but I imagine you could vary the seasonings if you want. I haven’t done this but you can probably increase, decrease or eliminate all together the celery and/or mustard seed. Maybe try caraway seed instead or in addition to one of the original seasonings? If you decide to experiment with seasonings, once again I would make half a batch, try it to see if you like it and then make more if you do. Be sure to write down what you did so you can duplicate it next time.


Freezer slaw makes a nice accompaniment to a sandwich or a toasted bagel with cheese at lunch time. At dinner, it goes well with roast chicken or turkey, Bar-B-Q chops or ribs, as well as many other dishes.

One plus of freezer slaw I haven’t mentioned is its convenience. In addition to tasting good and having a nice crunchy texture, serving it couldn’t be easier-simply thaw in the fridge and serve. A true homegrown convenience food any self-reliant homesteader can produce and put by for the winter provided they have access to a freezer.

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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