Monday, January 18, 2016

How to make your own "Gravlax" - Simple Citrus Cured Salmon

I love English tea luncheons. There's something about eating dainty finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and clotted cream that makes me feel like royalty-- if just for a short while. One of my favorite finger sandwiches is smoked salmon and cream cheese or cucumber and cream cheese.  Hold that thought, please.

I took a holiday appetizer class at our local adult school, and one of the recipes that our culinary teacher demoed for us is making a Citrus Cured Salmon.    She made canap├ęs of fresh cucumber, whipped cream cheese and topped it with the cured salmon, thinly sliced.  I was smitten, at first bite.  I wanted to grab the entire plate and devour them.  But, that would be rude. So, I made up my mind to make my own, at home.

I was able to find some beautiful salmon, imported from Ireland.  It was pricey-- at $20.00 per pound, but I reasoned that if I was going to cure this salmon, I wanted to buy quality fish that isn't farmed and fed all kinds of crazy food.  

I didn't photograph how I made it, because I did this close to bedtime.  It took exactly five minutes! First, let me clarify that this isn't smoked salmon (one day I'll try to learn how to make my own).  This is gravlax.  Essentially, what I am doing is creating a rub of coarse salt, sugar and citrus zest.  What's important (and I didn't photograph this part) is that you need a large sheet of aluminum foil, one sheet of parchment paper, some heavy cans or bricks and two baking sheets.  You layer the parchment paper on top of the foil, because the foil should not touch the salmon-- it's a chemistry thing.   I layered almost half of the rub on top of the parchment paper, laid the salmon (skin-side down) and covered the top of the salmon with the rest of the rub. Wrap it up, lay a baking sheet on top and weigh it down with heavy cans (crushed tomato cans, in my case).  Set it in the refrigerator and forget about it for 24 hours.

You can click here, to see a Martha Stewart video on how to make this.

24 hours later, I removed the salmon and the texture had completely changed! The fish felt stiff and had deepened in color.  I washed off the salmon, to remove the salt cure, then dried it off with paper towels.  
A moment of truth:  Don't make my mistake!  I set the salmon on a paper towel lined tray, but... well, um, er, I placed a paper towel on top. Big mistake.8 hours later, the paper towel stuck to the salmon and I had to work a bit to get it off (as I tried to hid underneath my copyright log in the photo above. So, don't do that!

You want to be sure to slice the cured salmon very thin. I bought this affordable 10" wide slicer knife, that does a great job of it!

TASTING NOTES:  For this recipe, I did not used dried dill-- only because my husband says he doesn't like dill.  In retrospect, I wish I had, because I think that dill is perfect with salmon.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cured salmon was not salty, even though it had been cured in it.  The notes of citrus was very mild. Again, I missed the dill.

I was craving fresh bagels so I could make a sandwich of this cured salmon, with a layer of cream cheese. That triggered me to learn how to make my own, at home.   I was so hungry, by the time the bagels were freshly baked (recipe here) that I wasn't going to rummage my pantry for capers.  Sliced red onion would be perfect, and some fresh tomatoes (they're out of season right now, and I don't care of hot house anemic looking tomatoes).   Still, I devoured enjoyed my cured salmon and cream cheese sandwich with relish.

If you make this recipe for a party, people will be amazed that you made this! Just smile, and accept the compliments and let them think that this was a super advanced thing to do.  It'll be our little secret.  Special thanks to Jenn, who has the blog "Rook 17" for showing us how to make this easy recipe.

Here is the printable recipe.  NOTE: I store all of my recipes on Key Ingredient. Unfortunately, they have recently reverted back to requiring a free membership to log in and view my recipes. I'm hoping that they'll change their mind, but in the meantime, I'll post a second site that doesn't require a membership. If you have any problems printing the recipe, please write to me

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Big Dude said...

I've never heard of Gravlax but the fish and the process sound great and as a lox fan I know I would love it - I believe I have a salmon filet in the freezer. The cucumber appetizer also sounds very good. I think you did good and an English tea, being smitten, and grabbing up the whole plate don't seem to go together :-)

Roz Corieri Paige said...

This is my kind of appetizer . . . and how serendipitous that I'm fixing a salmon appetizer today! Thanks for all of your tips to see and experience in Bavaria ..... all of them seen and completely enjoyed! We love Bavaria!!!! And hope to return!