Gravadlax – End of Year Cheer

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.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a good pouring shot or two.

Mix the resulting gooey mess with the dill, chilli and mustard seeds to form a nice paste. 

Don’t forget the gin. Though, it is an optional ingredient.

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?).

This really is a huge amount of flavour.

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.

Two days and nights in the fridge extracts lots of liquid.

After the time in the fridge, scrape off the mixture. Then rinse the salmon under a cold tap and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Ready for slicing. Delicious looking salmon.

It is now ready to carve (thinly, you Heathens) and serve along with some nice brown bread. 

Perfect with brown bread or scrambled eggs.

Happy Christmas. 


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Latest comments
  • Oh good, you’re back! I’d say you’ve been missed, but I’d worry about increasing the sass level… You’re here now. And that salmon looks lush, there’s no other word for it. You know, I’d love to try it with Mt Uncle Australis gin, which is made with Australian botanicals ( It’s not home made, but it is absolutely delicious, and I don’t think the flavour profile would fight with your other ingredients.

  • Nice to see you back. I was starting to worry. Happy Holidays!

  • Conor I defer to you on almost all matters de cuisine , but here I have to disagree. 1. I dont think chilli belongs in gravadlax (which I make quite often myself). 2. I prefer to put the cure mixture between 2 halves of the salmon (ideally symmetrical) skin outwards, and then wrap it all in clingfilm and put weights on top, turning every 12 hours. You get all syrupy liquid in the dish. In the unlikely event that you want to know more, I can send you the recipe (it’s Scandinavian via French). Best wishes to you and Sharon,

  • Looks fabulous Conor!

  • Yes, glad you are back! I really like this gravlax post – would love to make some.- and this looks like the recipe to start with. (And yes, I prefer thin-sliced, but I’m not going to deny some thicker slices if that’s what I’m served…)

  • Ggood to see you back, Mr B, and with a fine recipe too. Hope you have a good Christmas, pandemic notwithstanding. Take care. Lx

  • I was today-years-old when I found out that Gravadlax actually means “Grave” lax. Glad to see your posts again Conor! Looks divine.

  • These photos are just stunning. I mean it. Just gorgeous. I’ve made this before, but I don’t remember such an involved and beautiful paste. I’ll have to go see what I did! Cause I want to do this. Merry Christmas!

  • A Christmas Gravlax post from you is the perfect antidote to the dumpster fire that 2020 has been! I am also on team see-through-thin! Yours looks delicious — my mouth is watering from across the pond.

    I was hoping you were making bathtub gin, but going to a special ginnery (Is that even a word? Oh well, it is now!) is pretty darn cool!

    Here’s hoping that there are no more surprises before the end of 2020 and that 2021 is a much better year for all! ❤️

  • Hello with a huge hug, Conor . . . and you are back with one of the favourite dishes of my lifetime ! It was the first ‘thing’ I was ever allowed to ‘cook’ at roughly aged three . . . I have never ever stopped 🙂 ! Thus I am opinionated . . . well, you knew I would be !!! No, I would never use chillies . . . I do not use mustard seeds either . . . well, classical me reaching my dotage daresay :_ ! I prepare it more like Pip, especially as far as the regular turning is concerned but never ever let the fish see plastic . . . the delightful seaworthy freshness departs . . . unwelcome odours ensue . . . my way . . . your way . . . delightful being able to ‘argue’ with you again . . .

  • oh yum how delicious how pretty! and so full of flavour too. i must make this one day. merry festive season to you.

  • Welcome back to the blogging world! First you talk of vikings and then you add chillies? I agree the aromatics won’t get in through the skin, but I’m pretty sure the salt does (provided the scales have been removed). Great pouring shots!

  • Conor – thank you for knowing the difference – so many people do not ! Will so be thinking of you and yours at the end of the year we would rather forget . . . love . . .

  • Welcome back Conor! In this year of unexpected happenings, I thought you might have given up blogging. How very nice that I was wrong. Your gravadlax would certainly please my husband. If one made half the recipe, would you half the other ingredients as well or would that not be enough seasonings?

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