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Anybody make salmon gravlax?

sarah galvin Nov 27, 2008 07:41 PM

I am making salmon gravlax and the salt/sugar/herb cure is extracting a lot of water from the fish...more than I have experienced before. Usually the mixture keeps relatively solid but this has become very syrupy and runs off the filet onto the pan. I am wondering if I should make up a new mixture for tomorrow? Or will this syrupy mixture cure it sufficiently?

  1. m
    MartinDC Dec 2, 2008 09:40 AM

    I get my gravlax recipe from a Swedish cookbook, and do it the traditional way. Some comments:

    1. Gravlax that is not made from salmon is not gravlax. Lax is the Swedish word for salmon. The "grav" part means that in ancient times it was buried, but back then they did not cure the salmon with salt and sugar because those ingredients were not available. The practice of burying was a way to rot the flesh in a controlled way, and once rotted, there was nothing worse that could hut it, so if it didn't kill you or make you sick ... well, it was protein. The practice of burying is long dead, as now all that is necessary is a couple days with salt and sugar in the fridge.

    2. For the salt, use only kosher. Do not use iodized. You can use sea salt, but why spend the extra money?

    3. The swedes use only dill and a little white pepper. Nothing else. Some people think adding aquavit, vodka or other liquor adds something. I think it just washes away with the liquid and doesn't get absorbed. The sugar is enough to kill bacteria.

    4. Lots and lots of dill. Make a dill sandwich with the two slabs of salmon. Lots of extra dill on the outside too. Salt, sugar and dill. Wrap tightly with saran, put in a glass dish with high sides because there will be a lot of liquid. Turn once a day, and put a weight on top. Let the liquid collect. No need to dump it until it's done curing -- 48-72 hours (72 preferred). When done, just wipe away all dill, peppercorns. Don't rinse.

    5. Reason to keep the recipe simple: Scandinavians serve it with hovmästarsås, made with swedish mustard (lighter and sweeter), more dill, some sugar, vinegar and oil, whisked to form a dressing.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MartinDC
      TheSnowpea Dec 2, 2008 05:22 PM

      Did your book mention that the dill might be a modern variant, and the original buried lax might actually have been interred with pine boughs instead? Pine needles and dill fronds do have certain visual similarities... Anyhow I cannot attest to how true that is, but I felt it was an interesting notion!

      1. re: MartinDC
        alkapal Dec 2, 2008 06:54 PM

        martin, two questions:
        salt was not available in ancient times in sweden? that seems inconsistent with what i know of the vital importance of salt in history (see this superb treatise-- very readable -- on salt: http://www.saltinstitute.org/38.html

        sugar kills bacteria? salt is a great preservative, but it seems sugar might feed bacteria?

      2. c
        CapeCodBob Dec 1, 2008 07:27 PM

        Grapefruit peel on the salmon before curing adds a great flavor. It was serendipity that I discovered this. I had thought I was adding lemon peel ( I had a cold).

        Not sure why but it is a great combo.

        1. alkapal Nov 29, 2008 05:55 PM

          just saw this "east-west gravlax" today on simply ming: http://www.ming.com/simplyming/recipe...

          it sounds good.

          12 Replies
          1. re: alkapal
            sarah galvin Nov 29, 2008 07:26 PM

            I usually eat the gravlax right away but if I didn't, how long would you keep it in the fridge? East-west sounds interesting.

            1. re: sarah galvin
              scubadoo97 Nov 29, 2008 08:03 PM

              The last time I made it we ate on it for about a week.

              1. re: scubadoo97
                MMRuth Nov 30, 2008 03:21 AM

                Yes, we do the same.

            2. re: alkapal
              jfood Nov 30, 2008 06:31 AM

              OK so Ming wants to impress the Scandavian golfer. There is nothing relevant to making gravlax with this recipe although it does sound pretty good. The salmon is not cured, there is no weight to bring out the salmon juice and it is simply a overnighted dry rub and sear. If the guest was a Texas golfer the recipe would have been "dry rubbed salmon".

              Come on Mingy, your better than pandering, buddy?

              1. re: jfood
                MMRuth Nov 30, 2008 07:03 AM

                Ha ha! I think you are right. Does sound good though.

                1. re: jfood
                  alkapal Nov 30, 2008 02:56 PM

                  hold on, it was HER recipe! and 24 hours is good enough -- though not weighted. it was also then pan seared with panko. i thought it looked pretty darn good. and i think she probably knows more about gravlax than we do.

                  1. re: alkapal
                    jfood Dec 1, 2008 04:58 AM

                    Correct....looks great...but it is on his sight with his face with the following on the bottom:

                    copyright © 2008 WGBH Educational Foundation and Ming East-West, LLC. All rights reserved.

                    Seems he has placed his seal of approval and copyrighted in his portfolio.

                    No comment on whether someone has more knowledge because of the name of the country on the passport.

                    1. re: jfood
                      soupkitten Dec 1, 2008 11:04 AM

                      i'd agree that any cooking/searing on the gravlax makes it *not* gravlax-- but i'm not enough of a purist to insist that gravlax needs to be buried in order to be authentic, either. mentioning an overnight, unweighted recipe--i am remembering a j. pepin recipe for "instant gravlax" now, that i never got around to trying. i think it's in the jaques and julia cook at home book. iirc, pepin pulls it off by slicing the salmon thinly and cures the slices on the serving platter-- good to go.

                      as soon as it snows, i crave gravlax :)

                      1. re: soupkitten
                        sarah galvin Dec 1, 2008 01:00 PM

                        I have never weighted mine.

                        1. re: soupkitten
                          jfood Dec 1, 2008 01:26 PM

                          may have to look at that recipe in the book tonight. Thanks SK, back to your fine town at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

                          Please hold off on the snow please. :-))

                          1. re: jfood
                            soupkitten Dec 1, 2008 01:49 PM

                            uh-oh, too late, it snowed yesterday! :) just an inch or so though, & the roads aren't bad. msp is so pretty in the snow-- but i do hope the flurries will hold off while you're in town, Jfood, so you can get around to more great local restaurants to make up for that one unfortunate, bad experience. i'm loving all the reviews you are posting. cheers.

                        2. re: jfood
                          alkapal Dec 1, 2008 07:56 PM

                          well i saw the show, and he introduced her as quite a good cook, and that was her recipe.

                  2. sarah galvin Nov 28, 2008 01:32 PM

                    Thanks for everyone's reassurances. I'll just carry on. I usually use a 3 day cure and here is my recipe:

                    3/4 c salt
                    1 3/4 c sugar
                    3 T coriander seeds
                    4 T juniper berries
                    3 T fennel seeds or star anise
                    2 T black peppercorns

                    Grind the spices until quite fine in a coffee grinder and add to sugar/salt mixture. Place fish skin side down and cover with mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 hrs. Turn fish over and again cover with the mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 hrs. Turn fish over again and again cover with mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 hrs. Wash mixture off fish with cold water and pat dry. Put in fridge uncovered for 24 hours to air dry. It is delicious.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sarah galvin
                      scubadoo97 Nov 28, 2008 05:57 PM

                      Looks fantastic Sarah. I'm sure it will be/was a crowd pleaser.

                      1. re: scubadoo97
                        sarah galvin Nov 28, 2008 06:22 PM

                        Thank you scubadoo. I made it a couple of weeks ago for a client cocktail party and it was a hit! I didn't even get a taste. I'm anxious to see the difference between Pacific and Atlantic salmon - too bad I didn't get a taste of the Pacific.

                    2. DockPotato Nov 28, 2008 01:03 PM

                      Does anyone know if I can do gravlax with freshwater Salmon or Trout?

                      I've smoked, BBQd etc, but have long been curious about this method for us on the Great Lakes.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: DockPotato
                        sarah galvin Nov 28, 2008 01:23 PM

                        I'm sure they would be just fine. They are fatty fish, too. Arctic char works well.

                        1. re: DockPotato
                          soupkitten Dec 1, 2008 10:54 AM

                          trout gravlax works! i have a good recipe i'll find for you

                        2. scubadoo97 Nov 28, 2008 06:10 AM

                          Sarah is sounds normal, don't worry. Just don't cure too long. One aspect of gravlax that I've come to dislike is the gummy texture if the fish cures too long. If the fillet is not too thick 24 hrs is sufficient. I usually do a two day cure but have found it is often too much.

                          I like to find a salmon or trout with a high fat content. Lots of white lines between flesh. Helps keep it creamy in texture.

                          I have recently tried doing a wet brine with salmon and like it even better from a textural standpoint. 1 hour per 1/2 inch thickness is enough. Let dry in the fridge and serve as is or cold smoke for an hour.

                          Cured salmon is just a wonderful thing. Let us know how it came out and better yet post pics

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: scubadoo97
                            scubadoo97 Dec 5, 2008 06:24 AM

                            Here are a couple of pics of my most recent attempt at cold smoked cured salmon

                          2. jfood Nov 28, 2008 05:17 AM

                            to get the weight distibution correct jfood uses bags of rice on top of the filets, then places the weights of top of the rice. The rice allows for even pressure on the entire fish.

                            Like others have said, there is plenty of liquid that gets forced out of the fish.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jfood
                              MMRuth Nov 28, 2008 06:08 AM

                              That's a great idea - I usually put two large cans of San Marzano tomatoes and then rotate to help w/ the even pressure. Thanks for the tip.

                              1. re: MMRuth
                                mnosyne Nov 28, 2008 09:29 AM

                                I've been using a patio brick wrapped in foil.

                                1. re: mnosyne
                                  jfood Nov 28, 2008 10:18 AM

                                  the issue is the tail is not as tall as the other half so the rice "evens" the surface. Then jfood places a cookie sheet on the leveled rice surface and then tops that with the bricks

                                  1. re: jfood
                                    MMRuth Nov 28, 2008 11:48 AM

                                    I usually try to get a 2 lb center cut piece, then cut it in half.

                            2. meirelles Nov 28, 2008 04:06 AM

                              The best procedures I found at this link: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/re...
                              My recipe is;
                              1 cup of sugar (white) x 1 cup of salt (mixed 1/2 of refined x 1/2 of kosher)
                              2 tsp of black pepper
                              a lot of dill on the top
                              wrap with plastic film and place it on a pan but inclined for a better drain of the "syrup" for 48 hours inside refrigerator.

                              1. porker Nov 28, 2008 03:54 AM

                                Like mno, Ath, and MMR, I've had plenty of liquid as well. I have the fillet plastic wrapped tight while weighted and syrupy liquid oozes out anyway (keep it in a pan just for this).
                                It always comes out fine.

                                1. mnosyne Nov 27, 2008 10:04 PM

                                  In my experience, the syrup is normal. Just spoon it back over the fish halves or on top of the dill. The cure will be fine.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: mnosyne
                                    Athena Nov 27, 2008 11:24 PM

                                    I agree, I've been making it for at least 15 years and get that syrup too.

                                    1. re: Athena
                                      MMRuth Nov 28, 2008 03:38 AM

                                      Me too. When the salmon is finished curing, I usually just wipe off all the salt etc. with a paper towel, and occasionally rinse the pieces off as well, then dry.

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