Who knew that fish could be so confusing?
I mean, smoked salmon, a staple on many buffet tables and brunch plates is pretty awesome stuff. But, when I wanted to try my hand at curing my own salmon, I did some research and I came across so many terms…lox, nova lox, gravlax, smoked salmon, cold smoked…ughhh! But the more I read, the more things became very clear.
Cured salmon can be any one of these things:
– lox, which is the belly portion of the salmon and is cured with salt for several weeks.
– nova lox (named from a time when most salmon came from Nova Scotia), which is the exact same as lox but then it is cold smoked (so it stays tender but has a smokiness)
– gravlax, which is the same as lox but it is cured for less time and with salt, sugar and spices (recipes vary, using dill, juniper, pepper, horseradish, etc)
– hot smoked salmon, which has a similar taste to the cold smoked, but it is harder in texture and flakes rather than being tender.
So, now that you have been “fish-educated”, give this version a try. It is a variation of gravlax that was originally inspired by Dennis Prescott (his Instagram is crazy!!) from Food and Wine salmon and adapted with a few tweaks from Jamie Oliver’s cured salmon version. It’s so yummy, takes no effort (yes, it takes time, but most of the time is while it just hangs in the fridge), and it will garner you the title of “best fish curer on the planet” (and who wouldn’t want that?).
2 lbs salmon filet (see note below)*
1 c granulated sugar
1 c fine sea salt (if you like, you can use smoked salt for up to 1/4 c of this amount)
2 medium beets (will equal about 1 1/2 c)
skin of one lemon (use a vegetable peeler to get it off)
about 10 juniper berries (optional, but gives a nice depth of flavour…you can use black peppercorns if you don’t have juniper berries)
2 tbsp horseradish
splash of vodka or gin
Zest of one lime
Zest of one lemon
1/2 bunch parsley or dill (about 1/2 c)
good quality rye bread
sliced red onion
cream cheese or this spectacular lemon dill whipped ricotta
*note: try to source the freshest fish you can find, make sure it hasn’t been frozen and try to get the piece as uniform in thickness as possible.
1. Run your fingers across the top of the salmon to check if there are any bones in the filet and pull them out (use tweezers if you need to).
2. Place the salmon in a ceramic or glass plate.
3. Peel and grate your beets; press them into the top of your salmon.
4. Meanwhile, throw the juniper berries into a food processor and pulse; now add the salt, sugar and lemon peel and pulse again.
…it will look like this
5. Pour the salt/sugar mixture over the beet covered salmon and make sure it is all covered….
…like this (try to make sure there is no part of the salmon exposed)
6. Cover it in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 36-48 hours; when you check it, there will be liquid that has leached out (that’s good!)
…it will look like this!
7. Remove the dish from the fridge, scrape off the salt/sugar/beet mixture and rinse it well under cold water; place it back in the dish (make sure you rinse out the dish too!)
Note: The rinsing is a really important step here because you don’t want to be left with any more salt than is needed (if you do this right, you will get a great balance of salt/sugar from the cure and the freshness from the salmon will come right through)
8. Spread the horseradish on the top of the salmon and splash it with about 1/4 c of vodka/gin; cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for another 6-10 hours.
9. Take the dish out again, scrape the horseradish off and pull back the skin …
10. If you are going to use it now, place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes because it will be easier to slice.
HINT: If you think you won’t use it all, cut it in half, wrap both halves tightly in plastic wrap, place it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it for up to a month.
11. Remove the piece you are using from the freezer and garnish with the chopped herbs and lemon/lime zest (I didn’t have any fresh herbs when I did this batch so it doesn’t look as pretty!).
12. Place on a cutting board and surround with accompaniments; serve.
13. Sit back and enjoy the compliments – ’cause you are an awesome salmon curing machine!!!