Gravalax

At a cocktail party at my place a few years ago, the talk of the night was the crocheted moose-head above my fireplace and the home cured gravalax. People kept grabbing my arm and saying: “I love the salmon!” or “Where did you get the moose?”.

Gravalax is one of my favourite things to eat in Summer. It just tastes cleaner and more delicate than smoked salmon. A cured fish of Scandinavian origin, the name comes from the word for ‘grave’ as earlier versions included burying the fish into the cool earth.

Gravalax on toasted sourdough with avocado and cucumber

Gravalax on toasted sourdough with avocado and cucumber

There are many variations but I like the classic dill cured kind best of all. I made gravalax for my extended family as part of our Christmas feast a few years running and it even managed to impress my extremely picky uncle.

Best results come from using very fresh salmon and fillets from a larger (3 kilo+) fish. A smaller fillet will take less time to cure and in that case, 24-36 hours can be enough.

You want your friends to grab your arms too? Then follow me…

Classic gravalax

Feeds: 10 people
Start recipe: 2-3 days beforehand

Ingredients:

  • Salmon fillet(s) (skin on and pinbones removed) – 1kg in total.
  • 1/2 cup x salt
  • 1 cup x sugar
  • 1 tablespoon x freshly crushed black pepper
  • 2 large bunches x dill, chopped including the tender stems
  • 1/4 cup x vodka/gin (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine salt, sugar, pepper, chopped dill and alcohol (if using) in a bowl until evenly mixed.
  2. If you have a large single salmon fillet, cut it in half. Otherwise, leave your fillets whole.
  3. Portion out a large piece of plastic wrap and place onto a clean workspace. Spread a third of the seasoning mixture in the middle of the plastic wrap and layer the fish skin side down on top. Top with another third of the seasoning and then place the remaining piece of fish with the skin side up. Finish with the remaining cure, making sure to cover the fish as much as possible.
  4. Wrap the fish tightly with the plastic wrap. Place the fish package into a shallow dish and cover with weights totaling about 2 kilos. I balance a chopping board with some cans on top but use whatever you have handy.
  5. Leave the salmon to cure in the fridge for 24-48 hours, turning over the package and re-weighting every 24 hours.
  6. On day 2, unwrap the package and do a couple of slices for a taste test. Note that the first slice will always seem comparatively salty. The salmon is cured when firm to the touch and the colour has deepened. If ready, drain and wipe/brush off the seasonings to halt the curing process. Then re-wrap in some fresh plastic wrap and return to fridge until you’re ready to serve/eat. Otherwise cure for a further 12-24 hours but not longer than that.
  7. Slice the fillet very thinly at an angle and serve as desired.
Salmon packed with cure and ready to wrap

Salmon packed with cure and ready to wrap

Gravalax will keep for about a week or longer if wrapped up well.

Suggestion: Great just with some rye bread, lemon wedges, sliced cucumber. Make a simple fresh dill and mustard dressing if you like.

Also fantastic as in a salad with shaved radish, fennel, grilled zucchini and meyer lemon or blood orange segments.

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