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Food project of 2021: homemade gravlax

Last year was all about baking bread. Let’s make this year all about making our own cured foods, starting with gravlax.

Gravlax is an ancient salmon preparation. Fishing communities in northern Europe and Russia, surrounded by an abundance of salmon, acquired most of their catch during the time of year when the fish swim upstream to spawn. To preserve the fish for the rest of the year, they’d salt and bury it; this curing process gave them easy access to protein during the lean winter months.

Today the process relies on refrigeration rather than shovels. Instead of being buried in the earth, modern gravlax is made by “burying” salmon in a mixture of sugar and salt to extract liquid and cure the flesh. Depending on the cook, herbs, spices or even booze are added to enhance flavor and preservation.

For our recipe, you simply coat a large piece of skin-on salmon evenly with a mixture of salt, brown sugar (we liked the deep flavor it gave the fish), dill and brandy. Using skin-on salmon makes slicing the cured fish easier and the brandy adds flavor, helps the cure adhere, and assists in the preserving process.

Pressing the salmon under the weight of a few cans helps it release moisture and gives the fillet a firmer, more sliceable texture. We baste the salmon with the released liquid once a day to help speed up the curing process and to keep it from drying out.

After the three-day cure, just remove the fish from the salt mixture and rinse off the excess salt. All that’s left to do is slice it thin on the bias and enjoy; and decide on your next food project.

Gravlax

Recipe by America’s Test Kitchen
Servings

6

servings

For our recipe, you simply coat a large piece of skin-on salmon evenly with a mixture of salt, brown sugar (we liked the deep flavor it gave the fish), dill and brandy. Using skin-on salmon makes slicing the cured fish easier and the brandy adds flavor, helps the cure adhere, and assists in the preserving process.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

  • 1 (1-pound) skin-on salmon fillet

  • 3 tablespoons brandy

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

Directions

  • Combine sugar and salt in a bowl. Place salmon, skin side down, in a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish. Drizzle with brandy, making sure to cover the entire surface. Rub salmon evenly with the sugar-salt mixture, pressing firmly to adhere. Cover with dill, pressing firmly to adhere.
  • Cover salmon loosely with plastic wrap, top with a square baking dish or pie plate, and weight with several large, heavy cans. Refrigerate until salmon feels firm, about 3 days, basting salmon with liquid released into dish once a day.
  • Scrape dill off the salmon. Remove salmon from the dish and pat dry with paper towels before slicing. Gravlax can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to one week; it should be left whole and sliced just before serving.

Notes

  • Dill is our flavoring of choice here, but you could experiment with other flavors such as coriander or juniper.
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