I should start this post with some grovelling apology for my long absence from the blog. That ain’t happening. I’m here now with some good stuff in time for you to try it ahead of Christmas and the New Year. That will just have to be good enough for you. “Why the sassy attitude?” I can hear your muse. Well, I could blame the virus, the lockdown or life in general. But, it is none of those. The trusty Bradley smoker died a death, electrical rather than virus fault. That means I have to get my act together to prepare some Christmas gifts for a few (very few if the truth were known) close friends. So, not being particularly creative, I decided to do the next best thing to home smoked salmon, home cured Gravadlax.
Now Gravadlax sounds all fancy in its own right. However, the translation from old English reveals the following Gravad = Buried (as in put in a grave) and Lax is a kind of salmon known best to those with access to the north west Atlantic. So Gravadlax is simply buried salmon. Back in the day when the Vikings were plundering our shores here in Ireland, those Norse terrorists kept themselves going through the winter by eating salmon that had been cured and buried in the hard, cold earth.
Were I to suggest to the Wife that I planned to dig up the garden to bury some fish, our long and happy life together would be imperilled. So, instead of that, I have come up with a fiendish way to achieve similar results without all the hard work. But, more of that later. Firstly, here’s what you will need to make this delicious festive gravadlax.
- 1 centre cut of organic salmon (about 1.2kg)
- 120 gms of sea salt
- 120 gms of white or light brown sugar
- A big bunch of dill
- A couple of chilis
- 8 to 10 juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon of mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon of gin (I made my own but that’s another story altogether)
Roughly chop the chilli and the dill. Place all the other ingredients bar the salmon and mustard seeds into a mortar or blender.
Mix the resulting gooey mess with the dill, chilli and mustard seeds to form a nice paste.
Rub this mixture all over the flesh side of the salmon. Trying to “cure” the salmon through the skin is a waste of time and effort. I like to leave the skin on so I can carve nice thin slices more easily. There is a whole internet debate/argument/series of death threats about whether to carve the gravadlax thick or thin. You now know where I rest in this quagmire of keyboard warrioring (or should that be waring?).
Now here’s where the great advantage of having a vacuum sealer comes into play. Slide the fish into a vacuum sealer bag. Extract the air and place the bag into the fridge for two days and nights (the days and nights bit is an oblique Biblical reference, appropriate at this time of year).
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, wrap the fish in cling film, place in a dish, place another slightly smaller dish on top and add three or four tins (400gms or so each) on top. This will have a similar action on the fish.
In short, 48 hours in the fridge will extract lots of moisture from the salmon and infuse it with the wonderful range of flavours.
After the time in the fridge, scrape off the mixture. Then rinse the salmon under a cold tap and pat dry with kitchen paper.
It is now ready to carve (thinly, you Heathens) and serve along with some nice brown bread.