Salmon Gravlax, or gin cured salmon, is one of my favourite foods, along with smoked salmon and salmon cooked by any method!
It can be expensive to buy but you can make your own, at a fraction of the cost, so it's great for appetisers for get togethers, parties or any special occasion starter.
This recipe is really easy to make, but it does need a few days until the salmon is ready, so it's perfect for making ahead. and especially for entertaining.
Best of all, you can customise the flavours and have fun experimenting.
Why you will love this dish
Once you have made the gin cured salmon it's really versatile for a huge range of different dishes, which makes it perfect for entertaining. Perfect for Christmas and get togethers all year round.
There is no cooking and there are no special skills required, but there is plenty of taste and the chance to make your own variations too.
If you like smoked salmon then you will really love this!
Aside from poaching , frying, grilling, smoking and baking salmon, our ancestors have been preserving it for years for use all year round by curing it with an equal mixture of salt and sugar. This is what is known as 'lox', which is traditionally salt cured belly salmon.
Gravlax, which is Swedish on origin, is cured with salt in the same way but the difference is the added flavours that can come from herbs and spices. These can really penetrate the flesh and give the salmon a spectacular aroma.
Store the cured salmon in the fridge and use within a couple of days.
If you want to store it any longer cut into portions and freeze for up to 3 months.
Like all fish, wild salmon can harbour parasites in its raw form. Aside from cooking the fish, freezing it for at least 7 days should also kill the majority of parasites.
In the UK there are several regulations relating to the freezing of salmon. In essence, eating previously frozen farmed salmon carries a low risk. I am using salmon that I've bought frozen then defrosted.
To be sure you can also buy sashimi grade salmon, which is safe to eat raw.
The act of curing the salmon with the salt and sugar will stop bacteria from growing, but only cooking the salmon will remove it completely.
When you are preparing fish for curing it is sensible to make sure that all of your utensils and surfaces are hygienically clean.
If you are in any doubt, or are in a vulnerable medical group, please seek advice.
For this recipe I used a frozen 600g/1lb 5oz side of salmon in one piece, which will easily make 10 servings as a starter or 20 as appetisers.
For the curing ingredients you will need:
- 60 g of flaky sea salt
- 60 g of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- zest of a lemon
- 6 juniper berries, lightly crushed, (back of a spoon will do)
- 20 g fresh chopped dill
- 2 tablespoon gin
Make sure that all work surfaces, utensils and your hands are scrupulously clean.
Start by making the cure for the salmon.
Mix together the salt, sugar, pepper, lemon zest, juniper and dill to form a thick paste.
Cut the side of salmon in half lengthways so that you have two pieces of similar size.
Wipe the fish dry with kitchen paper and run your fingers over the flesh to detect any bones. Pull out any stray bones with tweezers.
Lay out kitchen film but leave attached to the roll.
Place a piece of fish on the cling film then spread the cure over the first piece. Drizzle with the gin then add the other piece of fish.
Wrap tightly in the kitchen film, then ideally in a zip lock bag so that it is easy to drain of the fluid which will accumulate while it cures.
Place on a dish then lay another similar dish on top. I used 2 long ceramic plates.
Refrigerate, with the top plate weighed down to flatten the salmon. I used 2 full lemonade bottles.
The amount of time to cure salmon gravlax depends on the depth of flavour you would like, from 1 hour to 5 days.
I prefer to leave mine for 72 hours, turning it over every 12 hours. This gives a firm texture. If you prefer a more delicate taste leave it for 36 hours.
When the fish is ready carefully unwrap from the film. There will be lots of liquid, so use kitchen towel to wipe off any excess.
To serve, it's easier to cut if you carefully peel off the skin. If you pull the skin back flat against the fish it should peel off in one piece without dragging the flesh.
Slice the salmon gravalax downwards in slices.
Alternatively, wipe off the cure with kitchen paper and use a filleting knife and take thin slices from the top of the fillet.
How to serve
Once the salmon is cured there are plenty of different ways to serve it.
- As a topping for blinis on a bed of soured cream and garnished with capers and cucumber.
- Make a starter by serving it sliced with different sauces such as dill with yogurt, soured cream and horseradish or sauce tartare.
- Stir through scrambled eggs just before serving or add to omelettes.
- Slice thinly for bagels or sandwiches with cream cheese.
- chopped as salmon tartare.
- Baked in a quiche with asparagus or broccoli
- Stirred through a tomato and mascarpone pasta sauce.
As long as the quantities of salt and sugar remain the same there are lots of different flavours you could add.
- 2 tablespoon vodka
- 20g chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 1 raw grated beetroot
- 20g raw grated horseradish
- zest of 2 limes
- zest of an orange
Other salmon dishes
Salmon Gravlax with Gin and Juniper
- 600 g salmon side of salmon, defrosted if frozen
- 60 g sea salt flaked, not table salt
- 60 g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon black pepper ground
- 6 juniper berries crushed
- 20 g dill chopped
- 2 tablespoon gin
- Mix together the salt, sugar, pepper, lemon zest, juniper and dill to form a thick paste in a food processor
- Cut the side of salmon in half lengthways so that you have two pieces of similar size.
- Wipe the fish dry with kitchen paper and run your fingers over the flesh to detect any bones. Pull out any stray bones with tweezers.
- Lay out kitchen film but leave attached to the roll.
- Place a piece of fish on the cling film then spread the cure over the first piece. Drizzle with gin then add the other piece of fish.
- Wrap tightly in the kitchen film then place in a resealable plastic bag.
- Place on a dish then lay another similar dish on top in the fridge. Place a wight on the top plate.
- Leave the fish for 72 hours, turning it over every 12 hours.
- When the fish is ready carefully unwrap from the film. Use kitchen towel to wipe off any excess liquid.
- To serve you can carefully peel off the skin. If you pull the skin back flat against the fish it should peel off in one piece without dragging the flesh.
- Slice the salmon gravalax downwards in slices.
- Alternatively, wipe off the cure with kitchen paper and use a filleting knife and take thin slices from the top of the fillet.