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Mar 21, 2007 01:46 PM

Smoked salmon

While shopping for smoked salmon over the weekend at a local gourmet shop, I saw at least 5-6 different varieties of smoked salmon... I was pretty lost as it was my first time shopping for smoked salmon(other than the packaged ones at a supermarket).
so what's the difference?

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  1. Unless I knew the brand names and was familiar with them, there's no way of telling which specific brands have specific qualities. However, some smoked salmon is saltier than others, some is luciously smooth, some is cured with pepper in the mix, etc. I'd ask for tastes, if they'll give them out. Smoked salmon is expensive and you shouldn't have to pay $20 bucks a lb. on sight alone. My local place carries several and the only name I can remember is Duck Trap. From what I recall, that brand is fine.

    1. Nova (lox) is not really smoked, just cured. For the rest, read the labels and see if there was real smoke involved or just smoke flavor. The flat, moist kind and the chunky drier kind are really different - the flat is cured more like gravlax, while the chunky stuff is actually dry-smoked, traditionally over alder wood. The latter is what Alaskan homesteaders made and called "squaw candy", and kept bags of around for snacks. If you're wanting some smoked salmon for a buffet presentation, the whole wet-cured presliced sides from the Pacific Northwest are wonderful. Not cheap, but they go farther than you'd think, and in the unlikely event there are any leftovers there is nothing on this earth better to scramble with eggs (with some fresh herbs and green onion). If you're buying it JUST for breakfast, lox is a good choice, especially as it comes in small packages.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        You're right. But most everybody I know calls lox "smoked salmon". I totally missed the possibility that the OP might be talking about hot smoked salmon.

        The OP mentions that she's shopping at a local gourmet shop. Don't know if this means there's a counter with salmon sold by weight or slices or just more packages of salmon. Will is totally righ about nothing being better than lox and eggs...I never cook the lox, though, just scramble the eggs with green onions and top with salmon just before serving.

        1. re: oakjoan

          I thought that lox was cured in salt like gravlax, but nova lox is smoked. Is that totally wrong?

          1. re: Megiac

            Correct. Gravalax = lox: salmon cured w/ salt andsugar under a weight.

            1. re: Megiac


              you are 100% CORRECT!

              lox = salt cured salmon
              nova = smoke cured salmon

              lox is way too salty for me
              but, nova is heavenly

          2. re: Will Owen

            The above description of squaw candy being chunky salmon dry smoked over alderwood is interesting. I have always thought the squaw candy had brown sugar incorporated into it in some manner and just dry smoking over alderwood doesn't necessarily make it squaw candy. I could be wrong on this but would be interested to know if this is the case or not.

          3. I'd say perhaps the greatest difference is the salmon which is being used: Atlantic/Pacific, farmed/wild, etc. In terms of flavour I'd rank wild Pacific at the top of the list. And while it's certainly true that different methods of smoking and flavouring agents alter the taste of the final product, in general I find that the quality of smoked salmon is tracked by the source of the salmon itself (i.e. whatever flavouring agents are used, smoked wild salmon is tastier than smoked farmed salmon). Lots of people make salmon choices on the basis of environmental concerns, as well - there should be lots of threads on this subject if you do a search for it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chloe103

              I've heard some say that farmed salmon is actually tastier (though perhaps not as environmentally friendly) for lox/cold-smoked salmon because it tends to be fattier. I've had wild salmon lox once, and it did seem to be a little bit drier and less smooth, though it might have just been brand variance.

            2. I actually have another question -- how long does nova lox keep in the fridge? Can it be frozen? I have about 1/4 lb.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JennS

                There was just recently a thread about this. Here it is:

                My experience is that in a sealed baggie with the air squished out, it's good for a couple of weeks max. But if I take the time to use the Foodsaver and get all the air out, it will last much longer. I buy a big pre-sliced section and split it up into separate vacuum sealed bags. I don't freeze them - I find that freezing alters the texture (although you will see others argue differently on that thread). Throwing these into my meat bin, I find that they will last a couple of months, at least, with no change in texture or loss of flavor.

                1. re: JennS

                  All of the "nova lox" I have seen in CA has preservatives so it will keep for moths if it is packaged under vacuum....

                2. Both the type of fish and curing methods can have a significant effect on the finished product.

                  Personally I like strongly-flavored smoked salmon, so I usually look for either Scottish or Scottish-style, which has a more pronounced smokiness than most. Generally speaking, all the options you're seeing are cold-smoked (if they're smoked at all), which mean the fish retains its rawish texture and does not flake apart like cooked fish. However, kippered salmon, which is hot smoked (thus actually cooked in the process), is fantastically delicious, though not that easy to find outside the better Jewish-style delis.

                  Nova lox to my palate is a complete waste of money and tastes like pretty much nothing, but I know lots of people who do like it. De gustibus non disputandum!

                  I suggest trying a few to see what you like - in the market if they're gracious enough to give you tastes, or else buy a couple at a time and see what appeals to you.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BobB

                    Both you and Will are misusing the term Nova Lox. Historically, Lox was the product that (mainly) Jewish immigrants brought over from Europe. It is salt-cured, but not smoked. Gravlax, from Scandanavia, is a variant that uses dill in addition to salt in the curing process. Nova is the smoked salmon that came down to the NYC area from Nova Scotia, a style that has its roots in Scotland. It is cured, then smoked for a long time in a large room that is kept at a fairly cold temperature.

                    Nova Lox is a misnomer - but one that has been in use for a long time. It does, however, usually refer to the smoked salmon, and not to the original cured-only lox. Lox, in that case, is used as the generic for Salmon, and Nova represents the specific type made by cold-smoking. There used to be a distinction in tha Nova was Nova and Lox was Lox. But when Nova Lox was used, it was to refer to Nova, not Lox.

                    This is why using terms willy-nilly becomes confusing. If you start using Lox to mean all cured or smoked salmon, what do you use in its stead when you want to refer to the cured only fish? Do you just decide to use Nova, when it already has another meaning, and hope that it will eventually come to mean what Lox used to mean? I have the same problem with bbq, q, cue, barbecue - whatever... If all that now means grilled, what term do we use to describe the real article?

                    In general, people start using one term for another out of ignorance. They don't know the specific food enough to understand the differentiation - so they just start using the specific term for the more general one. So people bbq hamburgers and hot dogs in their back yards, and people have bagels with lox that is smoked, and is orange, rather than pink.

                    But we should know better here at Chowhound. We should correct these kinds of errors, because they reflect our knowledge and because of our desire to comunicate effectively about food.

                    1. re: applehome

                      As both a foodie and language purist I appreciate your effort to clarify the terminology, but I wonder if at this late date it is even possible to separate the name Nova from the bland, lightly cured stuff I abhor.

                      As I was raised (in Boston's Jewish community in the '50s/'60s), there were only two options: Nova lox and salty (aka belly) lox. Neither tasted smoked, but of the two I've always preferred the salty version - another product that today you can find only in the better Jewish delis. It may well be as you say that Nova was originally a heavily smoked product, but that was already not the case by the '50s, at least in my experience.

                      Lox in Yiddish is in fact generic for salmon, and as such is a cognate for the German lachs, Swedish lax, Danish laks, etc.

                      Personally, as a Chowhound in general and a smoked salmon fan in particular, I do not use it generically for all smoked salmon products, but I certainly hear it used so by many people, especially older and less gastronomically sophisticated Jews. To them anything pink (or orange) that goes on a bagel is lox.

                      1. re: BobB

                        The Nova came in these big square tins from Nova Scotia, and it was definitely smoked, although because it was in the tin, it was wetter (packed in oil) than today's whole-fish, plastic packs, and certainly wetter than hand sliced, which was unheard of outside of the lower east side. It was how smoked salmon came in those days. In the early 70's, I worked prep in the kitchen of a Jewish summer resort (in the Berkshires, not Catskills - but same idea), and one of my daily jobs was to prep the bagel and lox plates - I would have them ready with slices of Nova and a chunk of cream cheese, and lined up on the prep table next to the sectioned half grapefruits so the waitrons could take them and plop the bagels on from the toaster. And although the cook never said anything, the owner would check the plates daily - make sure I wasn't putting on too much fish. But that's ok - for every piece of Nova I put on the plates, I either ate or fed my BOH associates two. (No wonder he was checking!) And yeah - some called it lox then, but most called it just nova, and it was definitely smoked. Served as bagels and lox, the customers rarely complained that it wasn't lox - I'm sure that many knew the difference, but few actually preferred the real lox.

                        Lox - the plain cured stuff, is not always from the belly. If you go to Russ & Daughters, you will see the whole side, like the Nova. But the belly is definitely the best - at least, it has some flavor from the greater fat.

                        I know lox is lachs is salmon. When I was stationed in Germany, I would buy tins of ersatz lachs - fish, usually trout (fiorellen) prepared to look like and taste like cured salmon. So Nova lox does make sense gramatically - but it's referring to a smoked product from Nova Scotia, and not to the cured only product.