I’ve never paid too much attention to smoked salmon. The supermarket smoked salmon should take the blame for it – industrialized production, and, possibly, freezing and thawing, have made this unique fish suitable only for residing in boring sandwiches.
A few months ago I went to the Minzar pub. I was in a mood for vodka and a simple side dish to accompany it, and Gravlax served with a Pretzel and sour cream seemed appropriate. I wasn’t expecting much of the Gravlax, and I was blown away: The salmon, crossway sliced, had a flexible texture (not a rubbery one), full flavor and, most of all, a rich, open sea aroma. It was exceptional, a true proper use of a fine raw material.
I was also as surprised when I found out that making it is a pretty simple task.
Gravlax is basically salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill. You can add spices to the curing, and some recommend alcohol (such as vodka, aquavit or schnapps). I’ve only added some ground black pepper. Cure the raw salmon for 48 hours and you have Gravlax, as simple as that.
This is how I prepared my Gravlax:
650 gr of salmon fillet, deboned
4 Tablespoons of sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
4 Tablespoons of coarse salt
1 Tablespoon of ground black pepper
Fresh dill (enough to cover the salmon)
Wash and lay salmon in a bowl adequately large, flesh side up. Mix dry ingredients and spread over the salmon’s flesh (If you want to add spices or alcohol, this is the time). Crush dill stems to extract flavor and slice dill coarsely. Cover the salmon with dill, and then with a plastic wrap.
Use weights to create pressure on the wrapped salmon (I used a bowl filled with water) and refrigerate.
After 48 hours
Remove plastic wrapper and dill. A lot of water is extracted from the salmon during the curing process, so it should be drained. Then, using paper towels, clean the salmon from any trace of salt / sugar left.
Using a sharp knife, slice finely and serve.
It was fantastic with some danish cream cheese on an earthy rye bread.
A note on the ingredients
In this method of preparation the salmon, as a raw material, is completely in light, with no cooking or flavoring to overshadow it’s natural flavor. This means you should use the freshest salmon you can possibly get. If you don’t go fishing regularly in the Northern Atlantic, you should check and see on which days fresh fish arrive to your local fish store and buy your salmon then.
Unfortunately, as far as I know, you can’t find raw wild salmon in Israel, only industrially farmed salmon. If you get your hands on one of these, your’e probably in for a treat.