I can’t believe how easy it is to make gravlax. Or let me rephrase that statement — I can’t believe it’s so easy to make gravlax, and it’s taken me until now to try it!
Like some of my other favorite things — sauerkraut, salt preserved lemons, sun pickles, and sour beets to name a few — the basic procedure to make homemade lox is add salt, wait, eat. Sure, you can add in some herbs and other seasonings as you desire, but the basic procedure remains the same.
This particular batch of gravlax I made last week as an appetizer for my sister Alisha’s Thanksgiving feast. To serve, I put a dollop of creme fraiche on some substantial yet neutral tasting crackers, topped with a generous slice of lox and a couple of capers, and topped it all off with a paper thin slice of meyer lemon. It was amazingly delicious, and within just a few minutes the entire plate was eaten! It was a total hit!
The basic cure I’ve listed above is clean tasting, and not very salty. Many recipes I came across had a 1:1 salt/sugar ratio (even as high as 2:1 salt/sugar), but since I was serving to a crowd that is salt-sensitive, I decided to go with a cure that was more like 2:3 salt/sugar. You can go as high as 1:2 salt/sugar, but I imagine I would find this to be overly sweet. Anyhow, what all these numbers and ratios should tell you is that the way to go is to experiment with a cure until you find something that works for your taste buds.
If you want a more complexly flavored gravlax, you might consider adding crushed juniper berries, black pepper, fennel seeds or fronds, or even something like crushed coriander seeds — just sprinkle on top of the fish before adding the dill. And a note about the dill — every single recipe I came across called for dill (in varying amounts), so to make traditional gravlax, it seems the dill is just about as important as the fish, the salt, and the sugar… but, if you have tried it without, I’d love to hear from you!
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Homemade Gravlax (aka Lox)
2 good quality salmon filets that are roughly the same size, approx 1.5 lbs total (I used wild sockeye) *see note
3 T. sugar
2 T. non-iodized salt
1 bunch dill
Remove all of the pin bones from the two salmon filets using a pair of tweezers. Trim the filets so they are the same size when stacked on top of each other. Place both filets skin side down on a cutting board.
Mix sugar and salt together in a small bowl. Generously sprinkle about 2/3 the mixture over the filets and gently rub in. Flip the filets over and sprinkle skins with the remaining mixture and rub in. Flip the filets again so the skin side is down. Let stand for about 5-8 minutes. Brush off any cure that seems excessive to you.
Trim dill so that it is roughly the same length as the filets. Mound dill on top of one filet in an even layer, then top with other filet so that the flesh is in contact with the dill (think filet & dill sandwich). Wrap the stacked filets tightly in a double or triple layer of plastic wrap. Place in a dish (to catch any juices that should leak out), then refrigerate for 2-3 days, flipping occasionally, and pouring off any juices that might have accumulated.
Once the 2-3 days have passed, unwrap salmon, discard the dill, and rinse the filets with cold water. Remove the skin to make cutting easier, if desired. Slice the gravlax thinly with a sharp knife across the grain to serve. Enjoy!
*Note: though it may seem counter-intuitive, choose fish that has been previously frozen, sushi grade or other. If using fresh fish, you should freeze it for at least 1 week in order kill off bacteria, etc.