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Feb 20, 2002 08:03 PM

Gravlax from frozen salmon?

  • l

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


            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.