Gravlax

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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!

Pickled Salmon

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I adore salmon, in just about every way. Hot smoked, cold smoked, raw, grilled – you name it. And I’ve always wanted to make my own gravlax. But then I came across this recipe for pickled salmon recently, and I knew I had to make it first.

It’s from one of my favorite series of cookbooks that I still refer to – the Foods of the World series by Time Life. This recipe is from American Cooking: The Northwest. Sorry for the blurriness.

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Now, this recipe can’t replace gravlax, which is cured salmon. This recipe is pickled salmon, so I’m still promising myself to still make gravlax soon.

I’m typing up the recipe as it is in the recipe book, and I did pretty much follow the recipe. However, instead of a large side of salmon, I used a smaller, frozen filet (thawed first) that was barely over a pound, and crudely adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. I mean, what’s 2 bay leaves divided by 5?

This salmon is super easy to make, and can be enjoyed within one week when it’s stored in the refrigerator, which it must be. I served mine with crackers, quite simply. If you love anything that’s pickled, you’ll love this pickled salmon!

Pickled Salmon
To serve 12 as a first course

2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 small onions, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rings
2 medium-sized bay leaves, crumbled
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 pounds fresh salmon, boned, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt

Combine the vinegar, water, olive oil, onions, bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves, and white and black peppercorns in a 2-3 quart enameled saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.
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Meanwhile, spread the salmon pieces in one layer on a strip of wax paper. Sprinkle the fish evenly with the salt and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
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Then drop the salmon into a colander and run cold water over it to rinse off the excess salt.
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Pat the fish dry with paper towels and pack the pieces tightly into a glass jar.


Pour the hot vinegar-and-spice mixture over the salmon, a little at a time, allowing the liquid to seep down slowly to the bottom of the jar before adding more.
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Cool to room temperature, tightly cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate the salmon for at least 24 hours before serving. Tightly covered, it can be safely kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

Before serving, I poured off the liquid. I didn’t want the salmon to be watery.

I added a little marscapone to the crackers before topping them with the salmon, and it was really nice. The marscapone toned down the vinegary flavor, but the salmon was good.

note: I kept the salmon in one piece to do the salting part, rinsed it and dried it, and then sliced it up. Way easier. I also decided to include a few of the pickled onion rings along with the salmon.