I remember cutting a recipe out of the New York Times’ Food section some 15 years ago or even more. It was a recipe for cured salmon, a delicacy I grew up loving eating on bagels with cream cheese and red onions and tomatoes. Standard Sunday Morning Brunch Food where I grew up – and it was great stuff. I even have that old newspaper recipe in my recipe clippings folder at home. But I never made it. Don’t even know why. Somehow never motivated enough.
But lately, I had been running into a lot of different versions of recipes for gravlax (the northern European word for cured salmon – means literally “buried salmon” and came from the custom of fishermen in that region burying salted fish in the sand for a few days in order to preserve it for a longer period of time) and I started to get curious about it again. The traditional recipe has only a few ingredients: salmon, salt, sugar, dill. So I didn’t want to venture too far from that – at least for the first round. So after reading about 20 different recipes, I decided on my version: salmon with salt, sugar, pepper, fennel seeds, fresh dill and tarragon, lime zest and gin. Ok, maybe I didn’t stick that closely to the original. Too curious about adding the citrus flavor and the gin to see what would happen…
On Saturday, i bought a 700 gram piece of salmon and in the evening I assembled the VERY SIMPLE recipe. Cut the filet in half, rubbed both sides of both pieces with a mixture of the salt, sugar, pepper and fennel, then put the chopped herbs and lime zest on top of the filets, drizzled them with a few tablespoons of gin (aquavit and vodka seem to be good alternatives), sandwiched them together and wrapped it all up in tin foil and put in the fridge.
According to the recipes I was reading, the salmon would need to cure for at least 24 hours, and it could last up up to 3 days until it was really done.
But…round one of making gravlax showed me that you CAN overdo it with the amount of salt you put on the fish. In 24 hours (I tasted it last night), it was very clear that the curing ingredients had completely saturated the fish (I attribute this to the amount of salt mixture I used) and if I didn’t scrape off the salt and herb mixture asap I would have something inedible. So before going to bed, I cleaned up the filet, chopped it into 4 sections and froze three of them – gravlax freezes really well, so I can eat the rest piece by piece and not worry about it going bad..
This morning: fresh, homemade gravlax on my toast. Delicious. Next: must try making whole-wheat bagels. Maybe a project for this weekend.