Ok, I’ve been dying to try the curing method for ages. Today was finally THE DAY! I was making Gravlax for the very first time, also referred to as Gravlox, Lox and even Lax…
Short summary – it was an overall success.
Here’re some nerdy facts about the process of curing.
Curing is a process of food preservation and flavouring. It is usually performed with the help of salt.
In this process, salt’s main role is to remove moisture out of the meat/fish, by the process of osmosis and, therefore, inhibit microbe growth.
On this note, let’s talk a bit about Lax, a.k.a. Lox dry cure culinary technique. First of all, “Lax” is translated just as “salmon” from Norwegian. Second, the classic Lax is made from a salmon belly and only with the help of salt. It is also worth noting, that this salmon fillet is NOT smoked.
At the same time, there is also Gravlax / Gravlox method, which comes also from Norway, from the days when Norwegian fishermen where salting fish and burying it in the sand for cure. The classical Gravlax is a salmon fillet, cured in salt, sugar and a huge amount of dill. Another common interpretation of Gravlax is when some spices are used instead of dill, usually juniper berries, horseradish and peppercorns. And again, this cured salmon is NOT smoked.
I’ve already talked above about the role of salt in the dry cure process. But what about sugar?
The role of sugar is mostly to alleviate the harsh flavours of salt and also to promote the growth of good bacteria. It does not add much flavour to the product (except when we talk about bacon).
Ok, enough of nerdy facts! Let’s see how to make a simple dry cure on salmon.
Ingredients that I’ve used to make Gravlax:
- 400 g Salmon fillet
- 80 g Kosher coarse salt
- 40 g Sugar
- 1 tbsp Dry bay leaves
- ½ tsp White peppercorns
- 1 tbsp Dry onion flakes
- 1 tsp Dry rosemary
- 2 Cloves
IMPORTANT TIP (what I’ve learned):
- They say you should keep the skin on fish fillet, when you cure it. Supposedly, it’ll help to hold the shape. Maybe… but I’ve used a salmon fillet with a skin off, and it kept the shape just fine.
- What’s more important when thinking about the shape of the final product is neat filleting. The fillet that I’ve received from my local supermarket was not very neat. Whoever was working on it, had pulled out the bones in the wrong direction, creating huge holes, that at the end impacted negatively on the overall look and shape of my cured salmon.
- Salt volume must comprise at least 20% of the fish net weight, in order for the fish to properly cure.
- Some say to use the same amounts of salt and sugar, but I’ve used only half, based on my logical thinking about the role of sugar in the whole process. At the end, I’m not sure, if I’ve made a right decision. Next time, I will try again with equal amounts of salt and sugar, and I will let you know if there is a difference.
- The length of time that you should cure your fish for in the fridge depends on the thickness of the fillet. Mine originally was about 2-3 inch, and I will say that 2 days is definitely way too much. 18-24 hours would have been just fine.
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