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I Have a Go at Gravlax

I Have a Go at Gravlax
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  • I Have a Go at Gravlax

    Post #1 - April 28th, 2008, 12:28 pm
    Post #1 - April 28th, 2008, 12:28 pm Post #1 - April 28th, 2008, 12:28 pm
    I Have a Go at Gravlax

    I made my first gravlax recently; we ate it this weekend and liked it quite a lot, but I’m always eager to improve my approach so I’m open to anyone with more experience who can help me make this relatively simple and excellent dish even better.

    Here’s how I made it.

    • 2 pounds of salmon (one fish, cleaned and cut in half)
    • 3.5 tablespoons of David’s kosher salt
    • 3 tablespoons of white sugar
    • 3 teaspoons of powdered white pepper
    • 2 bunches of fresh dill, roughly chopped

    I put the spices together and poured most on the cut sides of the fish pieces, put a little on the skin, put the dill in between the pieces, placed pieces at opposite directions to one another (tail to head) and wrapped it all in plastic wrap. I put the fish in a glass casserole, put another glass casserole on top and added 5 lbs of weight, distributed for even pressure. I put it all in the refrigerator and turned the fish every 12 hours or so. After 2.5 days, I unwrapped the fish, washed off the spices and dill, and ate it.

    The above recipe is a hybrid of a number of recipes and accompanying techniques, I came across. It was good, but could I do better?
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #2 - April 28th, 2008, 12:34 pm
    Post #2 - April 28th, 2008, 12:34 pm Post #2 - April 28th, 2008, 12:34 pm
    A couple splashes of aquavit or vodka wouldn't hurt.

    Were you draining any liquid when you turned it? Make sure you do that.

    The only other difference when I make it is that I use skin-on fillets of the same thickness (rather than the whole fish) so I can ensure an even cure throughout the meat.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #3 - April 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm
    Post #3 - April 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm Post #3 - April 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm
    eatchicago wrote:Were you draining any liquid when you turned it? Make sure you do that.


    Yes, I drained it, but not consistently. Is this a health and safety issue? Or an aesthetic concern?
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #4 - April 28th, 2008, 12:46 pm
    Post #4 - April 28th, 2008, 12:46 pm Post #4 - April 28th, 2008, 12:46 pm
    David Hammond wrote:
    eatchicago wrote:Were you draining any liquid when you turned it? Make sure you do that.


    Yes, I drained it, but not consistently. Is this a health and safety issue? Or an aesthetic concern?


    I'm not 100% sure if it's a health issue or not, but you really just want the flesh to be dry and firm. If it's sitting in its own liquid, I think you run a chance of harming the texture of the final product.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #5 - April 28th, 2008, 1:32 pm
    Post #5 - April 28th, 2008, 1:32 pm Post #5 - April 28th, 2008, 1:32 pm
    I put a few whole green onions on the bottom of my container to keep the fish out of any juices. I also use more salt and sugar than you do by a factor of 3 or so. My fish has an even white layer of spices on it which I brush off when done. I keep the dill whole but break up the bunch so it it lies evenly.

    For ths size, I would stack them thin to thick so the overall package was the same thickness. I've experimented with difffering weights, going as far as using a CMU wrapped in tinfoil but didn't notice any appreciable difference.

    No alcohol for me, my Swedish MIL said it was better used in a glass as you ate the fish and I concur :)
    I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
  • Post #6 - April 28th, 2008, 3:57 pm
    Post #6 - April 28th, 2008, 3:57 pm Post #6 - April 28th, 2008, 3:57 pm
    Octarine wrote:I also use more salt and sugar than you do by a factor of 3 or so.


    How long do you let it cure with that amount of salt and sugar?
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - April 28th, 2008, 4:47 pm
    Post #7 - April 28th, 2008, 4:47 pm Post #7 - April 28th, 2008, 4:47 pm
    I put a bit more salt than sugar, turn it once a day and check after three days.
  • Post #8 - April 28th, 2008, 5:43 pm
    Post #8 - April 28th, 2008, 5:43 pm Post #8 - April 28th, 2008, 5:43 pm
    A couple of variations to your recipe which you might want to try - courtesy Jacques Pepin

    1. Using light brown sugar instead of the white sugar
    (This gives the gravlax an interesting deeper flavor)

    2. Quick gravlax. In this version, you use paper thin slices of salmon which you fan out on your serving platter or on individual serving plates. Cover slices with the gravlax marinade ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and weight with another platter/plates and then some cans of beans. Refrigerate for about five hours.
    (I love this version for entertaining - everything, including the plating, is done ahead of time)

    Jyoti
    Jyoti
    A meal, with bread and wine, shared with friends and family is among the most essential and important of all human rituals.
    Ruhlman
  • Post #9 - April 28th, 2008, 11:47 pm
    Post #9 - April 28th, 2008, 11:47 pm Post #9 - April 28th, 2008, 11:47 pm
    Living in Sweden, I don't make gravlax perhaps as much as I should. It's pretty readily available at just about any grocery store and most of my family seems to prefer cold-smoked. When I do make it, I stay pretty traditional and basically follow David Hammond's recipe. I personally like my traditional food pretty traditional but I'll be sure to post any new gravlax ideas I see now that spring menus are being printed in nearly every publication over here.

    I used a quick cure similar to what jygach mentions (variation 2) when I made "laxpudding" a few months back.

    One note: more and more Swedish recipes I read mention the need to freeze the salmon at least sometime before consuming. Some recipes freeze the raw fillets before preparation while some recommend freezing the finished gravlax. The worry is parasites living in the flesh of the salmon*.

    Not trying to, eh, open a can of worms here but that's what I've been reading. In what must be a case-study in human nature, I'd say that I freeze roughly 50% of the time... In other words, odds are no parasites are in the fish but I'd hate to make a guest or family member sick. I'll keep it frozen for about 3 days for a normal side of gravlax. And perhaps due to a slow thaw in the refridgerator, I've suprisingly never noticed a difference in taste or texture in the finished product.

    * Not sure if I'm willing to vouch for this particular source. It's just one a few I found via a quick googling...
  • Post #10 - April 29th, 2008, 6:05 am
    Post #10 - April 29th, 2008, 6:05 am Post #10 - April 29th, 2008, 6:05 am
    Octarine wrote:For ths size, I would stack them thin to thick so the overall package was the same thickness.

    This is an excellent tip, though, if I read correctly, Hammond is already doing this.

    I'm with Morowitz as I like a splash of Aquavit, though I've used Grappa, Tequila and Vodka to good effect. I also use more salt/sugar/dill but less white pepper than Hammond, though that is more a matter of taste.

    I use a heaver weight and press for 3-days, if I can wait that long. I flip and drain every 12 hours and rewrap every 24 hours, you are trying to press the water out of the salmon, why leave excess that can be reabsorbed. I like the denser consistency of a longer/heavier press, YMMV.

    Gravlax seems one of those recipes that has very loose tolerances, you can go way outside the window and it will still taste really good.

    Congrats to Hammond on yet another in a string of delicious culinary projects.

    As an aside, I find the following Red Pickled Onions recipe, which I got from Bill SF/NM a number of years ago on a BBQ listserv, the perfect gravlax, along with crusty bread and good butter, accompaniment.

    Red Pickled Onions
    Bill SF/NM

    2 cups apple cider vinegar
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 whole clove
    3 whole allspice
    3 large red onion -- very thinly sliced

    Put vinegar, sugar, salt, clove, and allspice in a large nonreactive saucepan.
    Place over high heat and bring to boil.
    Put the onions in a large, nonreactive bowl and pour the boiling pickling liquid over them.
    Toss well.
    Allow to sit, tossing occasionally, until cool.
    Onions will wilt and turn pink.
    Let sit for 3-4 hours before using or refrigerate for up to 5 days.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #11 - April 29th, 2008, 12:07 pm
    Post #11 - April 29th, 2008, 12:07 pm Post #11 - April 29th, 2008, 12:07 pm
    G Wiv wrote:I use a heaver weight and press for 3-days, if I can wait that long. I flip and drain every 12 hours and rewrap every 24 hours, you are trying to press the water out of the salmon, why leave excess that can be reabsorbed. I like the denser consistency of a longer/heavier press, YMMV.


    I actually started out with heavier weight on the fish, but had second thoughts. The point about the fish reabsorbing the excess is certainly worth considering...

    Must say, as a neophyte with this preparation, I tended to be conservative in my approach, so adding alcohol was just too wild. Also, if you add vodka or aquavit, aren't you actually making more of a marinade and, thus, a ceviche? You're "cooking" the fish with alcohol rather than curing it with sugar and salt.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #12 - April 29th, 2008, 12:20 pm
    Post #12 - April 29th, 2008, 12:20 pm Post #12 - April 29th, 2008, 12:20 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Also, if you add vodka or aquavit, aren't you actually making more of a marinade and, thus, a ceviche? You're "cooking" the fish with alcohol rather than curing it with sugar and salt.


    I may be wrong (although I never have been before), but I believe it's acid that denatures the proteins in the fish flesh (thus "cooking" them, turning the flesh opaque), not alcohol. Unless it was a very acidic alcohol, (I think aquavit is very close to neutral), I'd be surprised if it affected the cure.
  • Post #13 - April 29th, 2008, 3:07 pm
    Post #13 - April 29th, 2008, 3:07 pm Post #13 - April 29th, 2008, 3:07 pm
    The salt/sugar mix does the curing, by drying out the flesh of the fish. So far as I can figure, the alcohol (I've used gin, of all things, and that bit of juniper actually was kind of nice...) is just there for flavor, not for chemistry.

    I'm sure it's cheating, but I use some Tendercure in the Kosher salt + brown sugar mix. It seems to firm up the flesh a bit more than just the cure alone, and I prefer that slightly more firm texture.

    The fillet(s) get wrapped as tightly as possible in Saran wrap, and placed in the bottom of a glass bread pan, with another bread pan nested on top the fish. I put as much weight as I can into the top pan.

    Bail every 12 hours.

    Now this would take it from the realm of gravlox, but every once in a while I put a bit of Tendercure on it first, then give it the ever-so-slightest hint o' smoke before I begin the rest of the cure. Makes for a bit of color, too.

    For an interesting version of smoked cured salmon, take a look at:

    http://www.sausagemania.com/loxmania.html

    Keep us posted on your route Hammond! And pix, too, maybe? :)

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #14 - April 29th, 2008, 4:53 pm
    Post #14 - April 29th, 2008, 4:53 pm Post #14 - April 29th, 2008, 4:53 pm
    When I worked as a private chef on a yacht, the captain's favorite dish was gravlax so I got a lot of practice. I too tend to go for more salt than sugar and cure for less time (1-2 days depending on the thickness of the filet). I don't use ground white pepper, but sometimes use pink or green peppercorns. I almost always use liquor of some sort and like aquavit (most traditional), gin (more herby, juniper) or anisette (anise) the best. Also I like to add flavorings/herbs in addition to dill including lemongrass, lemon thyme, and fennel.
    FIG Catering, For Intimate Gatherings
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  • Post #15 - April 29th, 2008, 6:27 pm
    Post #15 - April 29th, 2008, 6:27 pm Post #15 - April 29th, 2008, 6:27 pm
    figmolly wrote:Also I like to add flavorings/herbs in addition to dill including lemongrass, lemon thyme, and fennel.


    Lemongrass sounds like an excellent addition. I take it you just lay the shoots between the halves of salmon, just as you would dill?
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #16 - April 30th, 2008, 12:29 am
    Post #16 - April 30th, 2008, 12:29 am Post #16 - April 30th, 2008, 12:29 am
    Geo wrote:Now this would take it from the realm of gravlox, but every once in a while I put a bit of Tendercure on it first, then give it the ever-so-slightest hint o' smoke before I begin the rest of the cure. Makes for a bit of color, too.


    Thanks for bringing this up, Geo!

    Lightly cold-smoked gravlax is known as "Najadlax" in Sweden and is truly wonderful. Here it is cured first and smoked second. Juniper and adler are the traditional smoking woods.
  • Post #17 - April 30th, 2008, 6:20 am
    Post #17 - April 30th, 2008, 6:20 am Post #17 - April 30th, 2008, 6:20 am
    Joyce Goldstein has a number of recipes sprinkled throughout her books, including one that uses gin, another using scotch, she uses brown sugar in one. Gravlax is pretty forgiving.

    I've been making gravlax for 30+ years and have never drained it. The salt and sugar draws moisture out of the fish, and the end product is always plenty firm, even dense.

    I usually freeze, mainly because when I make gravlax I'm making more than will be consumed all at once.
  • Post #18 - April 30th, 2008, 7:14 am
    Post #18 - April 30th, 2008, 7:14 am Post #18 - April 30th, 2008, 7:14 am
    You *freeze* it annieb?! I never would have thought about that... when, how, and what effect—if any—does it have on texture?

    This would sure make sense in terms of making production more efficient.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #19 - May 1st, 2008, 10:13 am
    Post #19 - May 1st, 2008, 10:13 am Post #19 - May 1st, 2008, 10:13 am
    Lemongrass sounds like an excellent addition. I take it you just lay the shoots between the halves of salmon, just as you would dill?


    Exactly - Crush and slice it a bit so the "juices start flowing."
    FIG Catering, For Intimate Gatherings
    Our website
    Our blog
    molly@FIGcatering.com
  • Post #20 - May 1st, 2008, 10:36 am
    Post #20 - May 1st, 2008, 10:36 am Post #20 - May 1st, 2008, 10:36 am
    LTH,

    For years, I've been doing a twist on the classic recipe.

    The curing salt mixture is equal parts kosher salt, sugar, and dry mustard powder, with crushed white peppercorns.

    And instead of the dill, I use equal parts of rough cut cilantro, mint, and scallion.

    Same two or three day curing process. Delicious.

    :twisted:
    "Bass Trombone is the Lead Trumpet of the Deep."
    Rick Hammett
  • Post #21 - May 2nd, 2008, 4:16 pm
    Post #21 - May 2nd, 2008, 4:16 pm Post #21 - May 2nd, 2008, 4:16 pm
    figmolly wrote:
    Lemongrass sounds like an excellent addition. I take it you just lay the shoots between the halves of salmon, just as you would dill?


    Exactly - Crush and slice it a bit so the "juices start flowing."


    I was thinking I might not cut up the dill next time -- it makes a "mess" that's hard to clean off the fish. I will, however, crush it (or maybe "muddle" is a better term).

    Evil Ronnie wrote:LTH,

    And instead of the dill, I use equal parts of rough cut cilantro, mint, and scallion.

    :twisted:


    Love the idea of using those herbs.

    I see a lot of gravlax in my future.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #22 - June 24th, 2008, 9:31 pm
    Post #22 - June 24th, 2008, 9:31 pm Post #22 - June 24th, 2008, 9:31 pm
    Once the salmon is cured, how long will the gravlax last in the refrigerator? I've heard estimates of from one week to two weeks.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #23 - June 24th, 2008, 9:47 pm
    Post #23 - June 24th, 2008, 9:47 pm Post #23 - June 24th, 2008, 9:47 pm
    One week is easy, two weeks is a real stretch. Decomposition doesn't seem to be linear. I'm thinking annieb has the solution for long term: freezing.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #24 - June 24th, 2008, 10:35 pm
    Post #24 - June 24th, 2008, 10:35 pm Post #24 - June 24th, 2008, 10:35 pm
    Geo wrote:One week is easy, two weeks is a real stretch. Decomposition doesn't seem to be linear. I'm thinking annieb has the solution for long term: freezing.

    Agreed and vacuum seal it too, if that's an option.

    Having tasted this delectable fish at the recent potluck, it'd be a real shame if even a morsel of it 'went south' before being eaten.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #25 - June 24th, 2008, 10:39 pm
    Post #25 - June 24th, 2008, 10:39 pm Post #25 - June 24th, 2008, 10:39 pm
    For longer storage, you could try the treatment that used to be given to lox. Cover the fish thoroughly with oil (something mild) and keep refrigerated.

    I'm not sure it will work as well, because lox is much more heavily salted than gravlax, but it would probably help. I expect it would change the texture less than freezing.
  • Post #26 - June 24th, 2008, 11:28 pm
    Post #26 - June 24th, 2008, 11:28 pm Post #26 - June 24th, 2008, 11:28 pm
    Here's my dilemma: The Wife found some wild salmon at Costco (with which we've had great luck), so she bought it. Thing is, I don't need the gravlax until July 4th. I felt it best to begin curing immediately (rather than re-freezing and starting the cure next week at this time). The fish will be ready this Friday, a week before I need it. So, from what I've heard, a week is not a push, so I should be fine.

    Interesting thoughts, though. I should probably get a vaccum sealer
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #27 - June 24th, 2008, 11:39 pm
    Post #27 - June 24th, 2008, 11:39 pm Post #27 - June 24th, 2008, 11:39 pm
    DH--It wouldn't hurt to prolong the cure a day or so. Turn the 'fridge up a degree. :) That will 'fix' the fish a bit more, plus give you a day up on the week's wait. This should turn out to be iron-clad, guarantee-wise. Wrap the fish really tightly in saran wrap, or put it in a ziploc and suck the air out before closing, using a teeny flat cocktail straw. No other equipment needed.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #28 - June 25th, 2008, 7:16 am
    Post #28 - June 25th, 2008, 7:16 am Post #28 - June 25th, 2008, 7:16 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote: Having tasted this delectable fish at the recent potluck, it'd be a real shame if even a morsel of it 'went south' before being eaten.


    I'm 100% with Ronnie on this one, D! It was delicious!
  • Post #29 - June 25th, 2008, 7:25 am
    Post #29 - June 25th, 2008, 7:25 am Post #29 - June 25th, 2008, 7:25 am
    Mhays wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote: Having tasted this delectable fish at the recent potluck, it'd be a real shame if even a morsel of it 'went south' before being eaten.


    I'm 100% with Ronnie on this one, D! It was delicious!


    Add another to chorus of praise for your delicious Gravlox. In fact, I think to be safe you should make another batch for your July party, and invite us over to take care of the one you have curing now.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #30 - June 25th, 2008, 7:41 am
    Post #30 - June 25th, 2008, 7:41 am Post #30 - June 25th, 2008, 7:41 am
    Kennyz wrote:Add another to chorus of praise for your delicious Gravlox. In fact, I think to be safe you should make another batch for your July party, and invite us over to take care of the one you have curing now.

    Full agreement on all counts.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow

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