In January, after I posted on a soup recipe from the cookbook Back to Square One, by Joyce Goldstein, I was told in a comment that the Gravlax recipe in the same cookbook was the best.

Sandra, an Aussie known to many of us bloggers as “lady red specs,” is the one who left the comment. Her blog, Please Pass the Recipe, is one I’ve followed for years, and I trusted her recommendation.

Sandra claims that the recipe for gravlax has the perfect ratio of salt, sugar, and booze, which is why she continues to use the recipe. Having never made gravlax, I decided this was a perfect recipe to use for my first experience.

The whole salmon thing is a bit complicated, with basic grilling or baking, but also smoking, curing, and brining.

There’s hot-smoked/cooked salmon, which I make in my stove-top smoker, there’s brined and cold-smoked salmon, or lox, that retains a sashimi-like texture, and gravlax or gravdlax, which is the Scandinavian name for brined and cured salmon. All are considered cooked, although via different cooking methods.

The gravlax recipe in the book calls for Scotch, which Ms. Goldstein chose to use with her Scottish salmon. Makes sense, but I’m not fond of any of the brown liquors. Fortunately, Sandra recommended vodka.

She also recommended that I use lemon zest and lemon thyme, instead of the traditional dill weed.

Fortunately I’d just planted lemon thyme.

So here’s what I did.

Home-Made Gravlax
based on a recipe in Back to Square One

1 salmon filet, about 1 1/2 pounds
4-5 tablespoons vodka
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt
Lemon Zest
Leaves of lemon thyme

Clean and dry the salmon if necessary, and remove any pin bones. Place the filets in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle the vodka over the flesh.

Mix the sugar, salt, zest and thyme leaves together, then rub the mixture into the salmon.

Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and weigh it down.

Refrigerate the salmon for no more than 3 days. To serve, gently wipe the salmon filets with a paper towel, but don’t rinse the mixture off. Thinly slice the salmon across the grain.

You can serve bagels, crackers, crisps, bread, or blini.

One can also serve the traditional lox goodies like cream cheese, chopped hard-boiled egg, chopped purple onions, and capers.

Treat the salmon just as you would lox, although the texture is firmer.

I probably could have sliced the salmon even thinner if I’d been more patient, but as it was it was translucent.

verdict: I am not a gravlax expert, but I can’t imagine another tasting any better than this one. The flavor is surprisingly mild, even with all of the lemon, salt, and sugar. And full disclosure, my salmon cured for four full days because I had to leave town. The texture was firm, but the flavor exquisite. I know I’ll be using this recipe again!

60 thoughts on “Gravlax

  1. Thanks for the shout out Mimi. So glad your gravlax was a success. It always makes a big impression on guests and it’s something I make for every special occasion

  2. Mimi, I made homemade gravlax a couple years ago (you can look it up on my blog) and had to rinse it off due to its being extremely salty. What kind of salt did you use? Kosher? Sea salt? Do tell! I’m excited to try your version. I respect your culinary hints and Sandra’s (aka lady red specs), too. LOVE gravlax! Thank you.

  3. This gra mix sounds mouth watering delicious! What type of blade would you recommend for the thinnest slicing?
    I’m thrilled to be receiving your posts!
    Cheers, Suzanne Wille

    • Well hell if I know. I’m just lucky to occasionally be able to purchase a salmon filet at my local grocery store. Have you seen Oklahoma on a US map?!! We’re very landlocked. I don’t care which ocean they come from, I’m just happy to occasionally get some! Sorry, which i could have answered your serious question.

  4. I’ve never made gravlax! I can’t tell you why not, but there you have it. Gotta try it, and this recipe looks perfect — thanks!

  5. I’ve always used vodka as well. Not because I don’t like the “brown”. But because I always save the “brown” for drinking. Whereas vodka is best left with the fishes! GREG

    • God i wish i loved brown booze. But i just don’t! Have you tried gravlax with lemon zest and lemon thyme? My first time only, so I have nothing to compare it to, but it was pretty fabulous!

  6. I definitely make mine with vodka, too, but it has been ages. I want to try it with your recipe. What kind of salmon did you use?

    • Well thanks for your comment, Jeff! I pretty much thought I was the only cook in the world who’d never made it. I think the process is the most fun. Honestly, just buying a filet of lox at Easter and Christmas is just as wonderful! But I’m glad I had the experience!

  7. The salmon looks an amazing red colour, Mimi. Was it wild salmon or just normal? It looks and sounds beautiful, enough that I will definitely try it. Whether you can call it gravalax without dill is up for discussion. When does cured salmon become gravalax, is it the dill or the method?

    • I could ask Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, who is Dutch. He would probably know. I’m obviously no expert on Scandinavian cuisine, and this was my first ever gravlax. It was wonderful, but I still love lox, and will continue to order lox for holidays and parties. I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember what kind of salmon this was. Where I live, I just get excited if I see something fishy that looks decent, whether it’s salmon or schrimp!

  8. I love doing things with fish! I’ve been making lox for years. I also like to pickle fish and make ceviche, sashimi. Salmon is a fish I prefer raw or very lightly pan seared. Well done salmon is not something I like. Thanks for posting this so more people will make lox. It’s very easy!

    If you ever find lemon basil, try it! I love it with seafood. I find it my local Asian market and this store stocks tons of seafood! Select a whole fish and they will gladly fillet it, scale it, cut it into steaks, etc. Since I live less than 5 minutes from this store, I eat way more seafood and veggies (they have a great selection of produce at very reasonable prices). I’m in Albuquerque and we’re quite land-locked but between 2 Asian markets and a Latino grocery that are all within 5 minutes of me, I can find the most awesome seafood and vegetables. I can get live blue crabs and crawfish, too!

Leave a Reply. I love 'em!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.