Let’s talk gravlax!
Are you familiar with this lovely stuff?
Scandinavian by heritage, gravlax is a type of cured salmon.
This delectable treat is not to be confused with smoked salmon, because there is no smoking in the process.
Gravlax isn’t lox either, though I would say that they’re pretty much cousins. Lox, a Jewish staple from what I hear, gets it name from the German word for salmon, lachs. Gravlax gets it’s name from the Danish, Norwegian, Swedish term for salmon, lax. (The gravad prefix means grave, because back in the day part of the making of gravlax involved burying it in the ground! But that’s just a ghoulish side note!) The difference between the two, though, is in the cure. Lox is salt cured salmon. In my reading, it is somewhat disputed as to whether or not sugar is to be allowed in the cure even. Gravlax on the other hand, is known to include the sugar as well as other seasonings like dill, black pepper, aquavit, caraway, or juniper.
Take notes guys, I can’t be the only geek who wonders about this stuff, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll post a quiz!
How to make it:
(a recipe in ratios!)
For every 500 grams of salmon, please use:
30 grams kosher salt
25 grams sugar
5 grams cracked black peppercorns
and a big bunch of dill
- Examine your salmon for any remaining pin bones. If they are present, remove with some clean needle nose pliers or tweezers.
- Combine the salt, sugar and dill.
- Lay out a fairly large sheet of cling film.
- Set down a layer of dill fronds about the size of your piece (or pieces) of salmon.
- Apply the cure to both sides of the salmon, half to each side.
- Top the salmon with an additional layer of dill.
- Seal up the cling film packet. Double wrap if you’re feeling like it isn’t sealed up really well. It is extremely unlikely there that the package won’t leak at least a bit through the curing process, so pop the curing packet into a container.
- Pop your soon to be gravlax into the fridge, preferably at the bottom of the fridge, where it will stay coolest.
- Cure for at least two days. Some people will cure for up to a week, or longer, but the longer you cure for the more intensely flavored your gravlax is going to be.
- Strip off the layers of cling film, peel away the dill and discard it, and rinse your gravlax thoroughly with cold water.
- Slice thinly on the bias and eat. The gravlax will be much easier to slice if you slice towards what would have been the tail end of the fish.
On first taste, I found gravlax almost too intense. I packed it back up into the fridge and had to think on how I was going to eat it.
The combination of bagel and lox, emphasis on the cream cheese used on the bagel, was developed because lox is often bracingly salty and the dairy cuts come of the intensity from it. So, I followed the knowledge of the New York deli, toasted up a mini bagel, doctored up my cream cheese schmear with some horseradish and a little bit of leftover dill and sliced up some gravlax. (Bagel and grav-lox mashup anyone?) Boy that was delicious.
By the time I had come up with that idea, a few days had passed, and the gravlax seemed to have calmed itself in flavor. I cannot really say if this was a change in how I was percieving it, or if it actually mellowed a bit once taken from the cure and rinsed. Either way, I liked it a lot better. So to be honest, a good portion of it has been eaten out of hand, just like this:
(Or you know, if we’re feeling civilized sliced onto a plate, and then eaten out of hand.)
The next time I get a hankering to make some blini I know what I’m going to be draping over top of them.
A word on the salmon you are using: yes, this fish is cured but never cooked. Fish can sometimes carry parasites that can make people sick. Generally, when a fish is alive, any parasites would be using the fish as a host would be found in it’s digestive tract. Once the fish is, ahem, dispatched the parasites may start to migrate into the meat, the parts of the fish that we would eat. This is why fish are gutted quite quickly once caught. Most parasites that live in fish do not also infect humans, but some do. Almost all of fish sold as fresh in North America (hey, it’s where I live!) has been flash frozen to -35º C to kill any parasites that may have been present. So the fish you buy should be perfectly fine to make into gravlax. If you are still feeling nervous, fellow scaredy cats, purchase farm raised salmon, studies show that it is much less likely to carry parasites than wild salmon. For your reference!
This time last year: Squash, Sage, and Chili Honey Tart
2 years ago: Drunken Cherries
3 years ago: Plums Under Meringue
4 years ago: Sushi Triangles