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Have I ever mentioned how much I adore Julia Child. Yes, I’m sure I have.
Her shows on PBS are among my favorites. I love the way she nonchalantly speaks of cooking real food – never minding the time it takes for the flavor it creates.
A couple years ago, they were re-running In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs. On this particular show Monique Barbeau was making tequila cured gravlax in Julia’s kitchen. I was glued to the television. It was the neatest thing for me to see her take an entire side of salmon and cure it in the refrigerator for 3 days.
She cured it with brown sugar and salt, then followed it with acidity and aromatics before calling it done and cutting it into vibrant orange thin slices. She served it as an appetizer over dill cakes. It looked phenomenal.
Since that day, cured gravlax has been on my list of things to make.
Thanks to NORTH, the Nordic Food Festival, I finally made my own home cured gravlax. As a blogger for the NORTH festival, I was to create a recipe from Sweden.
Sweden is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. Embarrassingly, I wasn’t very familiar with the Nordic countries but what’s kind of neat is that over the past week, in homeschool we were learning about Leif Ericsson and the vikings. So besides learning about the Scandinavian countries, I was able to include a bit of food history as well.
We ended up incorporating home cured gravlax or as the Swedish say gravad lax into our studies.
Home Cured Gravlax
Gravlax was traditionally made by fisherman. It was lightly salted then buried in sand above the high tide line, where it fermented. Yeah, learning about this traditional method made me wish I lived by the ocean. You better believe I’d have a special spot to bury my salmon 😉
Grav is a Scandinavian word for grave. Lax means salmon. So gravlax means buried salmon. Today, it’s no longer fermented but instead cured in a salt, sugar, and dill mix.
The Swedish recipe for gravlax is that simple; however, I made it more to the recipe by Monica Barbeau as I’ve been wanting to make her recipe for some time now. Making cured gravlax is surprisingly simple. It just takes a few minutes of your time for a couple days.
The first thing you need is a fresh side of wild salmon. It’s quite pricey but what I found out after the process is that you can also make gravlax with a smaller, more economical, piece of salmon.
After making sure all the spines are removed, the first step is to cover it with a salt and brown sugar ratio. 1 parts salt to 2 parts sugar.
As in the video with Monica Barbeau, I laid down the salmon and sugar/salt mixture on a piece of plastic wrap. I then placed the salmon on top of the mixture, flesh side down making sure to add extra curing mixture to the exposed sides of the salmon before wrapping it up.
Once wrapped, I placed my large cast iron griddle on top of it as a heavy weight. This helps with the curing process. I then placed it in my refrigerator to cure overnight.
Once the salmon has cured overnight, the flesh should turn a much deeper shade of orange and become quite firm to the touch.
I discarded the plastic wrap and laid out a new piece. The second day cure calls for making a brine filled with acidity and aromatics to finish the cure and give it flavor.
I laid out a new piece of plastic wrap and made my own brine with lemons, Spanish albariño, and a combination of herbs I have growing in my garden.
I placed the larger pieces of herbs and zest on top of the salmon then placed it again, flesh side down, on top of the brine.
I then placed more salt/sugar mixture on the sides of the flesh that were exposed.
Then, I wrapped it up tight.
I again, placed my heavy cast iron griddle on top of it and placed it in the fridge for another night.
The next day, I was able to slice into it and oh my was it ever amazing. Seriously, it was good. Delicate, and flavorful. You could taste the sweet salmon…salty, yet filled with the flavors of lemon, orange zest, dill, and mint. It was beautiful.
The only thing is I really made too much; however, I was able to gift some to family and they enjoyed it as well. Next time, I’ll just cure a couple filets to eat throughout the week because I will have to make this again.
A simple recipe for home cured gravlax (cured salmon). It's super simple to make and taste amazing!
- Wild caught salmon (preferably skin on)
- 2 parts brown sugar to 1 parts large granule salt (kosher)
- 1/2 cup Albariño wine
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- zest of one lemon
- zest of one orange
- handful of mint, roughly chopped
- handful of dill, roughly chopped
- Line a large pan with plastic wrap.
- Lay the salmon flesh side up on one side of the pan. Next to it, add 1/2" bed (or so) of sugar and salt mixture.
- Lay the salmon, onto the bed of sugar/salt mixture making sure you add enough to cover the sides, all around.
- Tightly wrap with the plastic wrap.
- Place a heavy weight on top of the salmon to help with the curing process.
- Place in the refrigerator, overnight.
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and unwrap. Set the salmon aside and discard the plastic wrap. Re-line the pan with more plastic wrap and once again, lay the salmon flesh side up on one side of the pan.
- In a medium sized bowl make the brine by mixing together the wine, lime juice, lemon zest, orange zest, and herbs.
- Place the contents of the brine next to the salmon, and again lay the salmon on top of it flesh side down.
- Once more, add some more sugar and salt mixture to the sides of the salmon.
- Tightly wrap the salmon, then place a heavy weight on top of it and again, place in the refrigerator to finish curing overnight.
- The cure should be done. You can know unwrap the salmon, slice thinly, and serve.
Do you enjoy Scandinavian food? I’d love for you to share your favorite Nordic foods with me in the comments below.
Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between My Humble Kitchen and NORTH Festival 2013.