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gravlax formula

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I started this thread to answer a request on the SF board for a gravlax recipe (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781902). It is salmon season and for the first time in while we have local salmon. Every time I buy a whole salmon (which are huge) I make half of it in to gravlax...

I've made gravlax quite a few times now; it always turns out great... It is an easy formula.
There inconsistencies on the internet about whether the sugar to salt ratio should be 1:1 or 1:2 (I've even seen 2:1 listed which IMO would be like eating candied salmon). I normally use 1 part sugar to 1.5-2 parts kosher salt. Since there is such debate, the recipe is very forgiving, so exactness is not necessary... A lot depends on personal taste (salty vs. sweet).
There are a lot of recipes on the internet; here is what I have found to be successful:
- 1 large skin on salmon filet with all the bones removed (I use half a salmon
)- 1 part sugar (I normally use all white sugar but have used part brown sugar as well)
- 1.5-2 parts kosher salt
- spices and/or herbs
- 2-3 tbsp liquor
Make enough of the sugar-salt mixture (the cure) so that you have enough to cover the filet entirely with a thick coating. Take large piece of plastic wrap (slightly larger than the salmon filet) and set the salmon on it skin side down. Next place or rub the herbs/spices on the salmon. Then spread the sugar-salt mixture over the salmon so that it is evenly covered with a think layer of the mixture. Take the liquor and sprinkle/drizzle it over the fish. After that, fold the salmon in half so that you have a salmon sandwich with the sugar-salt cure in the middle and wrap tightly (use more plastic wrap if needed).
Then place the salmon on a small sheet pan (toaster oven size) and put it in the fridge. I let mine cure for 3 whole days. About once or twice a day I flip the fish and drain the liquid that accumulates in the sheet pan (I could say that you should do this every 12 hours, but I am not very exact with it and have had great results anyway). After three days unwrap the fish and gently rinse it under cold water scraping the cure off... be sure to get all the cure off it will be too salty. I then slice it very very thinly... whatever we don't eat that night we eat over the next 3-4 days (not sure how long it lasts... not long at our place).

Some variations I've tried; I loved all of them:
herbs/spices-dill & pepper; liquor - vodka (this is the traditional)
herbs/spices-juniper berries, caraway, coriander, & pepper; liquor – whiskey (I used part brown sugar with this one and mixed some of the fresh ground spices in with the cure as well)
herbs/spices-cilantro, lemon and lime zest; liquor - tequila

We normally eat it with rye bread and crème fresh or on good bagels (which we bring back and freeze from NY or get at Izzy's). Depending on the variation you can use mustard or other condiments. To make it into a full dinner, we buy some other charcuterie and add some greens and tomato.

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  1. Wow! You've covered all the bases I can think of. . .very thorough and very generous of you. Thank you very much indeed! I can hardly wait to get my hands on a side of salmon.

    Just a couple of questions: must you fold the salmon in half, and why?

    1 Reply
    1. re: pilinut

      Not completely sure... I think that then when you wrap it in plastic wrap it increases the exposure to the cure... You also need less cure this way I would think.
      Need a good food scientist to comment...

    2. Thanks for your tutorial. Gravlax or lox, it's all good. I also do some type of cured salmon on a fairly regular basis. Dry cure or wet brine depending on the texture I'm looking for. Often cold smoked. If you like lox of any type you should defiantly give this a try.

      3 Replies
      1. re: scubadoo97

        Never tried the wet brine or cold smoking. How do they work? Can cold smoking be done in an oven smoker?

        1. re: lrealml

          When doing a wet brine I use a brine of 1/2 lb of salt to 3 qts of water and a big handful of brown sugar. You can add other ground spcies as well. Brine for no less than 1hr/ half inch of fish, skin on. I usually do a whole side of salmon and brine over night. The texture is different from gravlax. The texture is more creamy.

          I cold smoke on my electric smoker, turned off, but use a homemade cold smoke generator made from a can to hold chips and soldering iron to provide heat to get smoke. There are a few really good cold smoke generators like the A Maze N Smoker and the ProQ that can be used almost anywhere. Not sure about the indoor oven. I'd keep it outdoors. Smoked using a little apple wood for an hour or two. Just love it.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            Wow.. you made a cold smoke generator! That is awesome.
            I have no outdoor space, but I made an over smoker to smoke pork (we have to take down all the smoke detectors in the apt and the place smells of BBQ for a week).

            I wish salmon wasn't so expensive... I would love to try making it all these ways..

      2. thanks! such a thorough report. much appreciated.
        but I usually bring back rye bread from NYC...