Hey there, Dinner Interventionists! About a month ago, Sarah and I were chatting back and forth on Facebook about my recent adventures in charcuterie (fancy word for curing/preserving meats) and she asked if I would take a go at writing for the DI blog…so here it goes, my first blog entry… I wanted to try something I haven’t made before and would be of in the sprit of the Dinner Intervention site, so I settled on making lox.
Lox have got to be hands down one of my favorite foods and it is the annual feature of my family’s Christmas morning breakfast. After thumbing through my charcuterie book and a long internet search, I concluded that the term lox covers many types and methods of salt cured salmon. Check out Wikipedia for more info on the history of lox. I settled on the more traditional gravlax, which in its most basic form is salt, sugar, and dill. You can add other herbs/spices like juniper, but I don’t really like the taste of juniper, so I left it out. If you don’t like dill, substitute something else…you won’t hurt my feelings.
Here is what I got at the store:
I bought a whole salmon (it was $3.99/lb., woo hoo!) and had the person at the seafood counter filet it for me, but remember to ask for the head and trimmings so you can make some yummy fish stock later! When I got home, I removed the pin bones with a small pair of pliers that I keep for kitchen use (*note, be gentile when doing this so the meat doesn’t get torn up, you want your lox looking pretty when you’re all done) and also trimmed the fish a little so the pieces were as uniform in thickness as possible. I cut each side fillet of the fish into two pieces, the body and tail end. I did this for two reasons: 1) you want your fish to fit into the container with about a half-inch to an inch of space all around the fish so that it will be completely covered on all sides by the mix, and 2) the tail end is thinner than the body and will cure faster, by separating it from the body you will have the option of taking it out of the salt cure early.
Next, thoroughly mix equal parts of salt and sugar together (from here on known as the “mix”). Depending on how much lox you’re making you may only need six pounds of total mix, but it is always better to have some left over at the end than needing more in the middle of the process.
The prep work is now done and it’s time for the fun part. Spoon enough mix into your container to form about a half inch layer all the way across the bottom. Next, place the thickest piece of fish skin side down on the layer of mix you just put into the container. Then, spoon more of the mix into the container to completely cover the fish on all sides. Finally, cover with a layer of dill (or other herbs/spices as your tastes dictate) and repeat the process (layer of mix, fish, mix, dill) until your container is full. You can do up to three levels of fish per container but always end with the tailpiece on the very top level.
Guess what? You’re done! Put the lid on the container and stick it in the fridge for 48 hours. After about 12-24 hours you will notice a brine has started to form at the bottom, this is what you want, and after about 36-48 hours all of the dry mix will have become a brine (it will be very thick). 48 hours have gone by…BOOM! You now have homemade lox! At this point you want to check for firmness. The piece of fish should be pretty firm, if its still looking raw or really soft to the touch put it back into the brine and let it sit for another 24 hours. If it meets your approval, wash any remaining brine/mix off the lox.
Now its time to taste test! Slice yourself a piece and eat it. If it is too salty, submerge the lox in a container of cold water and set it in the fridge for about a half hour. Dump the water and taste another piece. If it is still too salty for your liking, soak it again, repeat the process until you get a product you’re happy with.
Congratulations, you can now enjoy some homemade lox. I prefer mine thinly sliced on a bagel with cream cheese, red onion and capers…It’s your fish, though, use it how you like. Dice it up and make a tartar, slice pieces and put in a salad, make little finger sandwiches for “high tea”, you can even cold-smoke the fish (a process I use when making bacon) with some alderwood chips to add another flavor dimension. So including the cost of the fish, salt, sugar, and dill, the lox cost me about $8 to $9 per pound verses the $25 to $37 per pound for the already made store bought stuff. Your fish should last for about two weeks in the fridge or you can vacuum seal it and freeze it for later use.