Thursday, July 14, 2005

vikings rule!

yesterday i embarked on a scandinavian fish-curing journey. i made gravlax, which is cured salmon, not to be confused with smoked salmon. the fish is cured with a copious amount of sugar and salt (and if desired, aquavit - a scandinavian liqueur made with caraway seeds), dill, pepper and flavorings (i used juniper berries and citrus zest).

salmon 1lb filet
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp juniper berries
lemon zest
orange zest
chopped FRESH dill (dried will NOT work)
kosher salt (this means "big grained" salt)
aquavit (if desired)

1 lb salmon filet, skin included (make sure this is fresh. and if you can get it, organic. you're not gonna cook it, so make sure you get it freshy fresh. if you're in one of those squarish states and you only have chain discount grocery stores, i'd look for a real fishmonger and inquire about the last shipment. if you live in a place like manhattan, good for you!)

cut that sucker in half.

okay, now you need some peppercorns (1 tsp) and juniper berries (1 tsp) (fresh would be excellent, but c'mon... get real. i couldn't even find that shit in manhattan) - you can get dried juniper berries on the spice rack in nice grocery stores.

now crush 'em! if you have a mortar and pestle, this should be easy. if you don't just stick 'em in saran wrap and bang it up with a hammer, a frying pan, or a brick. crushed pepper is tastier than milled. :)

now take 1/4 cup sugar and mix with 1/4 cup salt. mix well!

now take a grater and grate some lemon and orange. you don't need that much. the outer zest of one lemon and like, 1/3 a large navel orange will do.

chop some dill. copious amounts.

here we go... lay down a layer of dill on saran wrap. lay the halved salmon filets side by side on top of the dill, skin side down. now, coat the flesh sides of the filets with the salt and sugar mix. i'd say 1/8 inch is enough. too much and you overpower the fish with flavor. but too little and it doesn't cure. anyway, sprinkle the pepper, juniper berries, lemon and orange zest over the filets. put a copious layer of dill over one of the filets, (this step optional, but authentic: sprinkle with a layer of aquavit), and then sandwich the filets together like a book, flesh sides touching.

wrap in plastic wrap. wrap in aluminum foil, and stick in a deep dish / tupperware in refrigerator. put a weight over it, like a large filled jar or a brick or a law book.

leave it there for 24 hours and flip over once. juice will drain out. do not be alarmed. this is normal.

after 48 hours it should be done. slice and enjoy.


yukino said...

Hey! You're supposed to bury it in the ground to cure.

emily2 said...


however, i don't think the 85 degree heat in manhattan is conducive to fish being semi-preserved. and if i took a sledgehammer to the asphalt to get to the dirt below, i think i'd be arrested. :(

yukino said...

There's dirt underneath New York City? I thought it was all supervillain lairs and shit.

emily0 said...

i learnt from the inuit that using plastic to make traditional dishes like this leads to death by botulism.

any reason they suggest using plastic? i would imagine there would be better alternatives.

emily2 said...

aluminum foil was used in one recipe. i think plastic wrap was suggested in a few recipes, because it's so readily available. perhaps parchment would be a good idea instead.