Gravlax is a preservation method of salmon (although you could do it on many types of fish) whose origins are Nordic. This technique allows you to preserve the fish and also add flavor to it by curing it in a mixture of salt, sugar and dill. Osmosis causes the water content of the fish to be removed and replaced with the flavors of the cure. The salt and sugar also prevent bacteria from causing the fish to spoil. Salt, sugar and dill are the basic elements in most gravlax cures, but you can add spices and herbs to the base cure mixture to make it your own and flavor it however you want. For this cure, I added the zest of three oranges and 2 lemons, as well as fennel fronds.
One 4 lb fillet of salmon (or Arctic Char)
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
Zest of 3 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons
½ bunch of fresh dill, roughly chopped
½ cup fennel fronds, roughly chopped
1. To make the cure, measure out the sugar and salt. Zest citrus and chop herbs.
2. Mix all ingredients together. Pat the salmon dry with a towel and cover it in the cure, patting it down to make sure it is well-adhered to the flesh of the fish. I only put the cure on one side, because I wanted to make sure that the fish didn’t get too tough or dried out. You have to keep in mind that the salt can have a drying effect if too much is used, or if the cure is left on for too long. The amount of time you let the fish cure depends of course on the size of the fillet you are working with. The fillet I used was about 4 pounds, and I let it cure for 15 hours. You can let the salmon cure longer, depending on how tender or cured you want it to be – the longer you let it sit, the tougher the flesh of the fish will get, and the flavors of the cure will be more present / magnified in the fish as well.
3. Lay the salmon on a flat tray and wrap the entire thing tightly in plastic. A lot of liquid will come out of the fish, so make sure to wrap it well. Refrigerate for 15 hours or desired curing time.
4. When fish is ready, remove from plastic and rinse off the cure in the sink. Pat dry and slice. Gravlax is ready to eat!
© 2010 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle