To continue the tradition of serving Scandinavian food like I did in my last post, I introduce to you today probably the strangest recipe I’ve ever made.
Before attempting this questionable recipe myself, I had tasted gravlax a few times in the past, my taste buds wondering why it wasn’t simply labeled “salmon” because that’s sure what it tasted like.
And then I did some research. Gravlax is actually cured salmon – as in, meat that’s salted and left to rest until it’s safe to eat like regular cooked meat. Pioneer-style, if you will.
When you think about it, what other options did the early settlers have? At least in my corner of the world, the winters were (are) harsh and there was no guarantee of finding and hunting fresh meat each day. In order to ensure three protein-filled square meals a day, pioneers (and others, of course – this recipe is Scandinavian, after all) would cure their meat so they could preserve it and have it handy when there was no fresh meat to be had.
It’s crazy, maybe a little gross, and an idea that may take some getting used to…but it works! Even after reading several articles and recipes and Wikipedia pages about cured meat, I was a little skeptical. What if I messed it up? Could I mess it up? Was it possible to cure my meat too long and end up with a salty blob of disgust? My health was potentially at stake here.
But Sam’s Club had salmon for a steal, and there seemed to be no time like the present. I took the plunge. I cured my meat. I ate it.
And I survived. With zero questionable side affects.
My gravlax was good! And so much cheaper than any gravlax you can find in stores. Thanks to the effort and time involved, the stuff sells for a pretty penny. But you can make it yourself! And it really is pretty simple.
Things you’ll need:
1.) A refrigerator – sorry, this may be a pioneer-style recipe but we’re definitely taking advantage of modern conveniences here!
2.) A heavy baking dish or two
3.) Cans or heavier items to weight your meat down
Think you can handle that? You’ll also need a sharp knife, but I guess technically you can go without that if you don’t mind shoving salmon into your mouth in bulk.
Confession: I don’t keep super-sharp knives around the house. I’ve always grown up with dull knives and therefore when I expose myself to the sharp kind, I usually end up with an injury. I’ve decided it’s best if I just stick to the dull ones and prevent any further harm, especially when hand-washing the dishes. It’s simply safer that way.
Hence my strangely thick gravlax.
I know, it isn’t nearly as pretty as most thinly-sliced seafood and it’s maybe lacking a little in the presentation department, but all my limbs and appendages remain safe, so I think we can agree that’s the better end of the deal.
Intact fingers > beautifully-arranged gravlax.
One more thing: you’ll also use some plastic wrap to make your own gravlax, but this is mainly just to protect the meat and because the fish will generate quite a bit of liquid as it cures.
That’s it! This recipe doesn’t take many ingredients or tools.
If you’re so inclined, you can add a tiny bit of liquid smoke to your salmon. This – obviously – results in a smokier flavor, as some complain that their gravlax doesn’t turn out as smoky as they expected. Gravlax is kind of smoky-tasting, but it’s a different type of flavor than salmon that is actually smoked on a grill. I did add a bit of liquid smoke to mine, but I only used a drop because I didn’t want it to taste too strange or artificial.
I loved it! Mmm, this gravlax was good. Salmon is probably my favorite way to eat protein (unless cheesecake counts?), but I don’t consume that much of it since it’s on the spendy side. Thankfully this recipe makes a decent amount, and if you are mature and capable enough to actually have very sharp knives in your possession, you can really slice this stuff thinly and get several servings out of it.
Serve it over bagels or crackers with cream cheese and capers, eat it straight up…or come back in a few days to see what I made with my leftovers! :)
- 1 lb. fresh salmon
- 2 Tbsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 drop liquid smoke, if desired
- Combine salt, sugar, and liquid smoke if desired. Sprinkle half over each side of the salmon and rub in.
- Tightly wrap salmon in plastic wrap. I recommend using two layers to prevent excessive leaking.
- Place wrapped salmon in a baking dish (I used an 8x8 dish) and top with another small baking dish – the heavier the better. To add extra weight, place soup cans or other heavy objects on top.
- Refrigerate the salmon for 3-4 days, flipping it twice a day so that the weight is equally distributed on each side of the salmon. (I rotated mine in the morning when I got up and then again at night before going to bed.)
- You should find extra liquid pooling in the baking dish as the salmon cures. After a few days, the fish will look opaque and it is ready to eat!
- Rinse the salmon with warm water and dry with paper towels. Use a sharp knife to slice in saw-like motions into thin pieces.
- Store gravlax in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze if you don’t plan to use it right away.