Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Sep 29, 2011 08:54 AM

Gravlax (split from General Chowhounding Topics board)

This is pretty far off topic, but what the hell. Currently just started making my gravlax for a dinner party on Sunday in Paris. Been making it the same way for 30 years. Very, very simple and quite inexpensive compared to any products made by others. Take the first 10 inches, less if you want, but marvelous leftovers, of a filet of salmon, preferably wild caught. Freeze solid for 24-36 hours, this will deal with any parasites that are increasingly found in salmon, more in farmed. Defrost, in the larger of 2 nesting glass dishes place about 4-6 tbls each of salt and sugar in the bottom and add a few tbl of liquid. l use shochu, Japanese hooch, sake works, vodka works, this time as in France using Pineau des Charantes to just moisten completely the salt/sugar mixture. Cover with Saranwrap, place the smaller dish on top. Take out, rinse off gently, slice thinly, plate and add a touch of sour cream and/or pickled ginger, that's it. The great thing about this recipe is if too salty, next time cut down salt, too sweet, etc, too wet, press harder, too dry less weight and so on. The texture will be like silk and l have never had a commercial product, regardless of country, regardless of provenance, regardless of cost that comes close to it. Just buy the freshest salmon you can find, you will never go back to commercial.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. How long do you leave it in the refrigerator with Saran Wrap and another smaller dish on top?

    22 Replies
    1. re: DPGood

      l really put that in, duh, sorry. Put a can of tomatoes or something heavy in the top dish. Keep in fridge for 36-54 hours. Longer in, the drier it will be. If too little time the salt/sugar mix will not penetrate the salmon.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        This is pretty much how I make my gravlax, the only difference being that I cut the fish in two (or start with two fillets) and stack them together with bunches and bunches of fresh dill on the top, the bottom, and in between the two pieces (it helps that there are Russian stores in my neighborhood that sell dill very cheaply).

        Otherwise, same deal with the salt, sugar and vodka (or akvavit), saran wrap and weights. Take out the wrapped package and turn it over every 12 hours or so and in 2 - 3 days you have fantastically flavorful fish!

        1. re: BobB

          Scotch whiskey and aged tequila are good alternative liquors. I've used fresh cilantro, or a mix of crushed coriander seed, crushed black peppercorns and sugar/salt cure as well.

          Agree, as Deluca wrote, it is simple to do and once you make you're own, you'll never go back.

          1. re: BobB

            Bob, I like to use Bombay Saphire, gin, and lemon peel along with the dill, salt and sugar. Gives it a nice flavor
            @bushwickgirl, I never thought of using cilantro/whiskey
            I would imagine that to be a nice combo though

            1. re: cgarner

              No, and I thought maybe this would come up, sorry I wasn't clearer; what I meant was aged tequila and cilantro. I used the whiskey with cracked peppercorns and coriander seed with the sugar/salt cure and laid lemon slices on the salmon side before wrapping.

              Gin is a very nice thought.

              I wonder how the whiskey/cilantro combo would work? Mm...

            2. re: BobB

              I do the same, without booze, but mix equal parts white sugar/brown sugar/salt and some fresh ground pepper.
              Dill: yes, lots.
              The only addition I'd suggest is to slap the puppies on a tray when weighting down. Seems no matter how much saran or how well wrapped, that sucker leaks.

              1. re: porker

                Good point. I use a large Pyrex baking dish, balance a small cutting board on top of the wrapped fish, and set a couple of big tomato cans on top to weight it down.

                1. re: BobB

                  I usually weight down with a 12-pack. When theres 2-3 beers left, the salmon is ready.
                  I prefer to remove the skin before curing.

                  1. re: BobB

                    Years ago I bought a paving stone about the same size as my largest pyrex dish. I wrapped it in foil and Have been using it as a salmon weight. No cans needed. The stone is about an inch thick and distributes the weight on the fish nicely.

              2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                p.s, do you flip the filet(s) half way through? I generally do, but have forgotten to without disasterous results

                1. re: cgarner

                  Only do one and do it skin side up. Have tried in the past to do two on top of each other and do not have the same penetration of the slat/sugar. If doing more than one just do multiple dishes.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I do two face to face, skin sides out, and it works fine. But I cram so much dill in the middle that there's room for the flavorings to work their way in. I also flip the package every 12 hours because that's what I was taught - never tried not doing it but I don't suppose it would make a huge difference.

                    1. re: BobB

                      Just made some for Rosh Hashonna using Coho wild salmon. Used cognac as the liquor, combo of coarse kosher salt and raw sugar and tons of dill. Make a salmon "sandwich", cover with plastic wrap and weight well. Turn every day and baste with accumulated liquid. Leave for 4-5 days for maximum effect.

                      My guests commented this was so SO much better than prepared lox or nova, which can get dry and mushy. Not necessarily cheaper, as wild salmon is very expensive in the Midwest, but infinitely tastier and simple to do.

                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                        I don't do Gravlax so much as Nova lox but it's my go to dish for Breakfast after Yom Kippur.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          Would you share the recipe for Nova? Thank you.

                          1. re: mnosyne

                            I use a skin on side of salmon and do a wet brine of 2 lbs of salt to one gal of water. This is pretty close to a 20% brine. Depending on the thickness I will soak for 12-24 hrs. The fish is freshened in fresh water for about an hour once removed from the brine. The fish towel dried and is allowed to air dry in the fridge and form a pellicle. After it is cold smoked for a few hours.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              Thanks, Scubie! You're a real mench!

                              1. re: mnosyne

                                I really like the texture of the fish when wet brined. It's softer and more like sashimi compared to Gravlax which always seems to be gummy IMO. When I've done Gravlax I slice very thin. When I do a wet brine I like to slice much thicker.

                                Are you interested in cold smoking?

                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                  With regard to smoking, cold or hot, I am a stranger in a strange land. But i'm interested.

                                  1. re: mnosyne

                                    For cold smoking you need a smoke source that produces little heat. A common method is to use a hot plate with a pie pan on filled with wood chips that is place in an off set container and the smoke it pipped via a drier hose to another container so you are getting smoke but no heat. Macgyver for sure. I use a very simple method but still is somewhat a Macgyver arrangement. I've used this set up before getting my smoker. I still use this set up but tricked out a bit to pump smoke into my smoker.

                                    Another method is to use a pre made cold smoker like the A Maze N smoker or the ProQ. Both work the same and you must use the fine wood dust as the fuel. You could stick one of these in a large cardboard box and pop you fish on a stand inside the box and cold smoke away. I'll post a picture of my smoker with my smoke generator attached.

                                    Getting any stranger? ;)

                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                      I have a little electric smoker, looks like a tall covered frying pan. I made smoked trout in it way back when. I'll take it out and see if it will hold a small salmon filet! Thx.
                                      Also thinking about using our old gas barbecue, as we bought a new one but kept the old-- it would be perfect for the A-MAZE gadget!

            3. I love making my own gravlax but only do so when I can use fish we've caught ourselves. I like Silver Salmon best - it's lean and results in that silky texture DelucaCM writes about. I always start curing within 24 hours after the fish leaves the water and haven't ever frozen it first. I am too lazy to go dig out the exact measurements but I use equal white sugar and kosher salt, crushed peppercorns, crushed juniper berries, lots of fresh dill and gin. i cure a filleted whole fish (usually 5-6 lbs), wrapping it tightly in saran and sandwiching between two nesting Pyrex pans, loading the top one with canned beans. Takes about 3 days and I flip every 12 hours - or when I remember. I love salmon season!

              1. I found that a Japanese pickled vegetable maker (with the weight or the screw down type) works great for gravlax.

                1. Served mine tonight, plates were very clean!

                  1. "Freeze solid for 24-36 hours, this will deal with any parasites that are increasingly found in salmon, more in farmed."
                    Minor point of contention: I believe the form of parasite most often found in salmon flesh is actually more common in wild salmon than farmed stuff. Also, for standard home freezers, the figure I see most often is to freeze for 7 days to guaranty parasite death. Not positive whether that recommendation is overkill or not (this comes from basically the same people who were recommending that you cook pork to at least 165 until earlier this year).

                    I'm a big fan of homemade gravlax. One of my favorite methods I've tried recently - a splash of tequila, and a good bit of citrus (orange, lime and lemon) zest mixed in with the salt/sugar mixture. The general method is more or less the same as yours. Stole that from a chef friend of mine.