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Gravlax from frozen salmon?

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Can I make gravlax out of a larger Trader Joe's frozen filet of salmon? Or does does the fish have to be fresh?

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  1. I'm sure you COULD, but it would probably be pretty tasteless.. Knowing, as I do, that you're in Boston, the prices on salmon fillet at the Allston Star are usually better that TJ's frozen...

    1 Reply
    1. re: galleygirl

      Let me amend that, you PROBABLY could, but that fish is pretty unexciting defrosted....Can you say bland and mushy?

    2. You could but why would you want to? :) The gravlax can only be as good as the salmon you start with..I like Trader Joe's for certain things but I think fish can be bought at better places. I would suggest Bread and Circus or Fresh Pond Seafood,and you can hit GG's Korean Market. Sea to You is more expensive and I would probably eat their fish raw as opposed to curing.

      1. Guess you could... as with everything depends on freshness off fish. After all, much of the top sushi in Japan comes off of frozen tuna, although they tend to freeze the things as soon as they stop wriggling. Similarly i seem to remember reading that smoked salmon here in the uk has to be frozen first for health regulation reasons (though could be making that up..)

        or if the quality of the salmon isn't that great maybe one could ceviche...?



        1. I've found that once you freeze and then defrost fish, chicken, etc., it just doesn't as good as the original, fresh version, so I try to avoid buying or eating such food, unless there's absolutely no other choice.

          NOTE: you could try this at home, using fresh vs. frozen-then-defrosted swordfish. What a difference!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Howard-2

            I agree totally. Freezing may preserve food, but I don't think it does a very good job of preserving the taste of fresh foods. Proteins in particular seem damaged and dried out by freezing.

            My uses for my freezer: storing very small amounts intended for near use of homemade stocks, stews, soups, and sauces; empanadas and other pasties, unbaked scones ready to pop into the oven for breakfast or a snack, storing odds and ends destined for stock, leftover bread for crumbs or bread pudding, pie dough. I also freeze nuts, flour, butter, certain spices that I have bought in too great abundance (paprika).

            Leftovers (as opposed to batches of soup, etc., portioned out into meals) and little baggies of eggwhites always seem to be part of my cleanout on occasional trash days.

            OTH: when people have harvest abundance, live in remote areas with limited access to fresh foods, etc., freezing's a great resource. It's also helpful to get frozen fruit for smoothies in the winter and some veggies that are seldom available fresh (lima beans). I'm sure that many working mothers would rather grab a bag of frozen veggies to toss into a stir fry (etc) than take the time to prep them.

            But when taste is the primary goal, frozen doesn't cut it IMO.

            1. re: Howard-2
              Michael Mormino

              Science bears out your point:

              When water-rich foods (like meats and fish) are frozen in a commercial flash freezer, they get denser as the molecules lose energy and then move closer to one another. When you thaw meat, the dense frozen meat begins to loosen up again. Thus, the dense but lightly flabby character of defrosted frozen meats.

              Even worse, when one stores food in the home freezer, the temperature fluctuates from the frequent opening and closing of the door. This makes ice crystals (in suspension within the meat) freeze, melt, and refreeze - and they tend to get bigger and bigger in the process, forcing their way through the fibers of the meat.

              This process ultimately results in the inherent water in a cut of meat being less integrated on a microscopic level, so frozen meat loses more water during the cooking process. (Ever notice how pre-frozen scallops "weep", giving up all their moisture - leaving you with a white seafood cylinder with the texture of wallboard? A prime example of the process.)

              In addition, those ever-growing particles of ice shred the fibers of the meat (or veggies, for that matter), keeping them from retaining the moisture and giving a more flabby texture as the meat loses its turgidity.

              Anyhoo, yes. Frozen meat = bad.

              And now you know why.


              Compostella Culinary Development

              Link: http://www.culinary.homestead.com

            2. I'm going to resurrect this thread, and ask, has anyone actually tried making gravalax from frozen salmon? How was it? I expect the texture wouldn't be as good as never-frozen, but am curious if the result is totally heinous.

              I find myself with the fortunate dilemma of a *lot* of (quickly) frozen wild ocean-caught salmon (go Mr. Olivia!), albeit, in my refrigerator's freezer.

              16 Replies
              1. re: Olivia

                You can NOT make gravlax with frozen salmon. Gravlax relies on the cell structure of the flesh to be in tact for proper curing. When you freeze fish, the cell structure collapses, this is why thawed fish is so "wet". I used to work at a small fish smoking facility, we would make gravlax for the holiday season...... it's just another form of curing salmon.

                1. re: Lenox637

                  Yes, you can make gravlax from previously frozen salmon. The swedes do it as a matter of current practice -- they buy a whole salmon fresh, clean it, then freeze to kill organisms. (Bacteria excluded, but the sugar will take care of that.) I make gravlax several times a year using only sugar, coarse salt, white pepper and dill. The salmon has almost always been frozen first, and it's always good.

                  So WHO CARES if freezing disturbs the cell structures? The sugar and salt will do exactly the same thing. It's called maceration. The salt draws the liquid out of the cells, The sugar goes in and keeps bacteria from growing. Once it happens, the integrity of the flesh is pretty much shot. There's no point to adding anything alcoholic -- that's faddish as most swedes will attest. But DO have an authentic Swedish akvavit on hand when eating gravlax.

                  1. re: MartinDC

                    "Sugar goes in and keeps bacteria from growing"...that's a new one???

                    1. re: Pollo

                      Sugar is a preservative and is toxic to bacteria. Honey was often used to treat wounds. It is experiencing a renaissance in treating staph infections where antibiotics are no longer effective.

                      1. re: MartinDC

                        I've had experience packing a rather terrible veterinary wound (don't ask) with sugar - it healed miraculously. There was no other option in that circumstance. Sugar is being used that way with amazing success.

                      2. re: Pollo

                        Bacteria, like all living things needs water to survive. Sugar is very hygroscopic, binding up all available water; when sugar is in large excess, as in curing, it effectively desiccates the bacteria.

                      3. re: MartinDC

                        lots of them use akvavit in the cure and it s the salt that also takes care of the badies.try making it with alcohol ,its pretty good faddish or not

                    2. re: Olivia

                      At the risk of being shot down like a duck, I make gravlax with frozen salmon all the time and it's delicious. The way I see it is that the curing process sort of dehydrates the flesh, and it becomes more compressed so any loss of cell structure isn't noticeable - to me at least. I've done it this way more times than I care to count and never have ended up with a product that was even close to heinous. Norwegian purists feel free to aim now.

                      1. re: Nyleve

                        Glad to hear some real feedback and not conjecture. Due to the purposed parasites in fresh wild salmon there are warnings that fresh wild salmon should not be eaten raw. Not sure if the curing with salt would kill the parasites. I do gravlax and wet brined salmon for Nova lox a lot but use fresh salmon or what I'm told is fresh. Who knows. Many large fish are frozen on the boat before sale and if frozen properly and thawed properly there is little evidence of it being previously frozen.

                        So anyone else use frozen salmon who can tell us of your experience?

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          it's fine, if you use decent salmon (wild, flash frozen). many people don't realize how much "fresh" fish is actually defrosted, and that flash-frozen fish can be very much superior to never-frozen day-or-two-old never-frozen fish, which may pass thru a range of unsafe temps during its transportation and handling.

                          if properly weighted during the gravlax cure there is absolutely zero mushiness whether you use never-frozen or flash-frozen. i would not use a tj's or other crappy mass-market side of farmed salmon, but Olivia sounds like she's got good stuff and i would go for it.

                        2. re: Nyleve

                          I do it all the time , and it tastes wonderful. I believe some states require all salmon to be frozen first if it is to be used for sushi.

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            What I've read indicates that salmon that's been frozen below 0˚ is actually safer than fresh.

                          2. re: Olivia

                            i do it quite a bit .i add some vodka to the cure a i press the salmon while curing.nice firm and tasty,i dont even use a mustard sauce on the finished piece i just eat it straight up.

                            1. re: Olivia

                              Thanks everyone, sounds like it's a go, but thanks VERY much for the tip on being sure to weight the salmon properly.

                              RE: use of "molecular," getting my nerd-on here, but I think what was meant was "cellular," as ice crystals do tear cell walls.

                              Cheers, and again, many, many thanks.

                              1. re: Olivia

                                jfood uses a really big bag of rice. that way it "molds" to the contour of the salmon and then he places the weights on top of the rice.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  i can vouch for Jfood's excellent technique. if you have a 10 lb bag of rice it's pretty much perfect.

                            2. Here in Colombia I've made gravlax from both frozen and fresh (and costly) Chilean salmon. From frozen is perfectly delicious. Proteins and molecular structure are NOT changed with freezing. Those types of comments are just silly.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Sam, no offense since you have made a lot of valuable comments over the years but this time you are way out there. Freezing process, any type of freezing process does result in water/ice crystal formation (either small or large) in any product that has water in it. In case of salmon you will have way better texture if you make gravlax from fresh fish (hence remove a lot of water from the flesh) and then you can freeze the finished product...
                                By the way that write up by Michael Mormino is quite interesting.............

                                1. re: Pollo

                                  Ok - I'll concede the fact that gravlax from fresh salmon might in fact be a superior product. But that's not to say that when made from frozen it's unacceptable. I have personally never had access to really excellent fresh wild salmon, so my choices are to use frozen or not make it at all. So I've always used frozen and it's always been perfectly lovely. And referring back to Olivia - who bumped this thread - she was faced with frozen salmon, period, so wanted to know if she could use what she already has to make some gravlax. I say yes.

                                  1. re: Pollo

                                    I agree with you 100% regarding the textural downside of freezing. My comment about molecular and protein structure change, however, stands.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      Sam, I agree that all the "protein" changes are due to ice crystal formation...nothing more. And there is nothing at the "molecular" level that changes....
                                      I used to work (smoked) with a lot of frozen salmon and always thought that it was fine until I started using fresh (as in ~24 hrs. post mortem) fish....

                                      1. re: Pollo

                                        Of course fresh is best! You can change the texture of the flesh, but not the protein chains by freezing.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          hey technogeeks ,cant you agree that it can be done with frozen salmon(once thawed)and that it can be well done(ive done it lots )instead of a big scientific discussion about ...protien chains?!!.just a thought

                                          1. re: howlin

                                            OK...you have a point....here are some pictures of (wild) King salmon gravlax...

                                            1. re: howlin

                                              If you read upthread you'll see that I started by saying that gravlax I've made from frozen was perfectly good and delicious. There was no technology involved nor is it a "scientific" discussion. Some people just like to toss out statements that are not true (i.e., regarding proteins and molecular structure), while you like to call people names.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                Sorry Sam - my apologies I did not read the threads...my mistake...

                                                1. re: Pollo

                                                  Dude/Dude-ette/Chicken, I was answering to howlin. You and I are totally on the same page!

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    It's Dude...have a good Christmas!

                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                      it just sounded like you were arguing .i was trying to get things back on topic,and as for the name calling waa heres a tissue ,i said it to lightin up the mood.if it hurt you so much there is said back button.so untill next time have a coke and gravlax (frozen or fresh)and have a good day

                                                2. re: howlin

                                                  jfood very much enjoys the reasons as well as the results and thanks the people with knowledge on posting various scientific reasons for their positions.

                                                  If you do not like certain threads and posts, just hit the old "backspace" button and move on. Some of us have very curious minds and look forward to the science.

                                      2. I'll second some of the recent comments made by Nyleve, Soupkitten, and Sam. While I do not doubt that fresh salmon is more optimal, I've made gravlax out of frozen salmon and found the results to be quite good, if made properly. I do find that weighting the fish is especially important as a way to ensure good texture when using frozen fish. Obviously, using freezer-burnt, smelly, or clearly damaged fish is not recommended.

                                        I've also tried Trader Joe's frozen salmon and found it to be generally of high quality - the type of thing I'd be looking for if i wanted to make cheap, prefrozen gravlax.

                                        I'd finally like to point out that any salmon sashimi or gravlax you find for sale in the US is supposedly already prefrozen for a time as per regulations in order to kill parasites.

                                        I'd rather have well made prefrozen gravlax than poorly made gravlax from fresh salmon.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. I'm making gravadlax at the moment (with fresh salmon). It doesn't say anything in my recipe about weighting it. Do I need to?

                                          15 Replies
                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              I've done it both ways and tend to not weight it anymore. I like the texture better without weighting. I also don't cure for more than 48 hrs and that's if I have a 3 lb side. I just don't like the gummy texture that comes from long cures. I also refresh in fresh water for a few minutes after washing off the cure.

                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  i think you can certainly do a worthy cured salmon w/o the weights, but cured salmon doesn't have the pseudo-ham-like texture of gravlax that comes from the fish being pressed or weighted during the cure. originally the fish was buried (grav/grave) and the weight of the earth would serve for this. pedantic, maybe, but to me gravlax has to be pressed during the cure, and if it's not pressed you just have cured salmon or lox.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    I've had pretty good success using a vacuum packer. Because the flesh is so moist, I can't seal it very tight but I can remove most of the air and get good contact between the flesh and the salt/sugar/dill.

                                                    1. re: rainey

                                                      Actually that's a pretty good idea. If you buy frozen salmon fillets, they will often come in vacuum packages - maybe you can re-use them to do the cure! I just bought a couple of fillets yesterday and I'll see if that might work. The bags they come in can be re-sealed using a home vacuum machine. I've re-used those vacuum bags from arborio rice and they work just fine.

                                                      1. re: Nyleve

                                                        I reseal commercial packages all the time. The issue is whether or not there's enough extra room to create the vacuum seal but I don't think the vacuum is really necessary as much as the snugness and contact.

                                                      2. re: rainey

                                                        never even thought about a vacuum sealer ,awesome idea .does that seem to shorten the cure time?

                                                        1. re: howlin

                                                          No. I don't think so. I've cured it for the same time.

                                                          As I said before, I don't actually get a *vacuum* seal because the fish is moist and I'm not trying to draw all that moisture out. I just take up the extra air to snug things into nice contact. Then I don't have to do a lot of weighting and turning.

                                                          1. re: rainey

                                                            i usually use big ziplock bags when i cure ,but i still have to weigh and turn .im gonna try your way .genius, takes even less effort to make it like that.why didnt i come up with that method .cheers

                                                            1. re: howlin

                                                              Definitely going to try it this week. I always make gravlax for New Years Day - will report on results.

                                                    2. re: greedygirl

                                                      Just popping back to say my gravadlax was a triumph, and so satisfyingly easy. I ended up putting a board on top and weighting it with other stuff that needed to be stored in the fridge. I also made Finnish sweet mustard and marinated cucumbers to go with it, and served it with brown soda bread. A big hit with my guests.

                                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                                        Sounds really good greedygirl. We are working through my last prep of gravlax. I make gravlax or nova smoked salmon at least once or twice a month.

                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                          Ooooo! Will you share the recipe for Finnish sweet mustard? I love mustard. How about brown soda bread? These sound like very promising accompaniments to graavlax.

                                                          1. re: rainey

                                                            It was from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. This looks like the recipe:


                                                            I bought the brown soda bread, I'm afraid. My one concession to convenience as I made everything else from scratch.