How to Make Gravlax

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Sliced gravlax

Gravlax is salt cured salmon and yes- you can make it at home. Gravlax needs a few ingredients, minimal prep, and time. I usually prefer raw or cured fish to cooked – I enjoy its smooth texture and clean, vibrant flavor. Most cooked fish dishes do better served immediately (a perfectly poached salmon is an exception). There is no “overcooking” with gravlax.

Before the era of refrigeration it was common to preserve fish and fish eggs by drying, salting, and/or fermenting (see my recipe for Bottarga (salt cured fish roe) Pasta for another example). With gravlax, the salt breaks down and tenderizes the protein in the muscle fibers of the salmon and the weight compacts the flesh.

The basic recipe calls for salt, sugar, and dill. Some will add a few tablespoons of brandy or vodka. The Nourishing Traditions cookbook uses whey (the watery part of milk that separates from the curd). I’ve seen a wide range for the salt to sugar ratio from two and a half parts sugar to one part salt, equal amounts of each, or more salt to sugar. Experiment with additional spices like coriander seeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and lemon zest,. Most gravlax recipes call for a 24 hour curing period, but it can go longer- it will become drier as it cures.

Steps of making gravlax

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Gravlax – Salt Cured Salmon
Perfect for a make-ahead dish. Other fish like snapper, bass, and arctic char can be used. Serve with lemon wedges and mayonnaise, mustard sauce, or yogurt-dill sauce.

1 3-pound center cut salmon fillet
1 large bunch of fresh dill or fennel fronds
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup Rapadura or other sugar
2 tablespoons peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel, caraway, or coriander seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon vodka, brandy, or gin (optional- use less salt if doing so) or 1/4 cup whey

1. Cut the salmon fillet crosswise in two equal pieces to create a “sandwich.”
2. Lay the fillets skin side down on parchment paper.
3. Sprinkle the salmon with the spices and spirits/whey if using. Lay the dill over one of the fillets.
4. Sandwich the fillets together and wrap tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
5. Place on a dish and cover with a heavy weight (like heavy cans).
6. Refrigerate for 2 days or more, turning it every 12 hours.
7. Slice thinly to serve.

This post is linked to The Healthy Home Economist | Monday Mania, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free | Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, A Moderate Life | Hearth and Soul,  GNOWFGLINS | Tuesday Twister, and Kelly the Kitchen Kop | Real Food Wednesday.

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