Gravlax (Scandinavian Cured Salmon)

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Gravlax is a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means “grave” (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish), and lax (or laks), which means “salmon”, thus gravlax means “buried salmon” (wikipedia).

Likely, you might also call this “Lox” if you were served this dish at a restaurant or on a bagel. Lox is a fairly generic term for cured salmon. Either way, I’ve held a passion for gravlax ever since my uncle first made it for us many years ago.

I consider this my uncle’s dish, though I believed he picked the recipe up during a visit to Finland. Generally, he has this dish make its appearance during one of the holidays. I love this dish so much that for one Christmas, when my aunt and uncle asked me what I wanted as a Christmas gift, I requested this dish (which he of course made).

Last week I was struck with a desperate urge, a necessity for my continued existence, to eat dish this immediately. So, I emailed my uncle and asked for the recipe. It was a painstaking wait preparing this, but completely worth it.

Since this isn’t some sort of hallowed family secret, and all good food should be shared, here it is:

Gravlax

Take fresh salmon (de-skin) and freeze for a minimum of seven days.*

Then, marinade for at least 4 days. How much you use for marination may depend on the quantity of salmon you are attempting to cure.

  • (1:1 salt to sugar ratio)
  • 4 tablespoons Salt 
  • 4 tablespoons Sugar
  • Black Pepper
  • A lot of fresh dill

Turn salmon over once ever 24 hours until marination time is complete.

Slice thin and serve with mustard sauce (recipe below) on a plain cracker (or, in my case, a bagel with homemade cream cheese).

Gravlax Mustard Sauce

Combine:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoon mustard (such as brown mustard with the mustard seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 egg yolk

In a separate bowl, beat:

  • 1/3 cup of oil

While beating, add yolk/vinegar mixture.

Add:

  • Salt/Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh dill, finely chopped (to taste)

*Avoiding Parasites in Raw Fish (from Food Service Warehouse website) 
A way to avoid consuming parasites from raw fish is to freeze the fish for a sufficient time to kill the parasites. Use the FDA, Ontario Ministry of Health (OMH), & EEC (European Economic Community) guidelines given in the chart below to determine how long and at what temperature to freeze your fish in order to kill parasites:

 Regulatory Organization  Temperature  Duration
 FDA & OMH  At or below -4° F (-20° C)  7 days
 FDA & OMH  At or below -31° F (-35° C)  Until solid, then for an additional 15 hours
 EEC  At or below -4° F (-20° C)  24 hours

It is unlikely that one will contract a parasite by eating the raw flesh of most species of fish, but each type of fish has different levels of risk and different guidelines for how to choose and prepare the fish.

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