As an opera singer, there was a period of time when I was in and out of New York City regularly. Everything for an up-and-coming singer seems to be centered there, so naturally, I was too.
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One of things I looked forward to most on my regular pilgrimages were the lox and bagels – with the proper schmear of cream cheese, of course. The ubiquitous Jewish delis near most of the places I lived lured me every morning to indulge my craving for yeasty, salty goodness.
Now, at a different time of life, I haven't been to New York for several years, but I still long for my beloved lox, bagels, and cream cheese. But since I've spent the last few years devouring information about traditional methods of food preparation and putting them to practice in my own kitchen, I've realized it's really quite a cinch to make traditional lox at home, provided you have access to fresh salmon.
(Granted, the first time I made this, I thought it needed to sit at room temperature like all the other cultured and fermented foods I'd made up to that point – but hey, you live you learn!)
To make traditional Swedish gravlax, add 1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar to the salt mixture.
- 1 cup coarse, unrefined sea salt
- 1/2 cup fresh dill (2–3 large fronds, torn)
- 2–3 tablespoons black peppercorns and/or dried juniper berries
- 2 filets of wild salmon, skin-on
- Mix the salt and the spices together in a bowl until evenly mixed.
- Place a long strip of plastic wrap on a baking sheet just long enough to accommodate the salmon. (See where to buy PVC, BPA, and plasticizer free plastic wrap.)
- Place one filet of salmon face-up on the plastic wrap. Pour half of the salt mixture over the filet, then lay the other filet face-down on top of the first.
- Pour the rest of the salt mixture over the filets and pull the plastic wrap up and over the salmon as tightly as you can. If the filets are small enough, place the wrapped filets in a resealable plastic bag. Otherwise, place the fish in a baking pan or baking sheet long enough to accommodate the entire salmon. You don't want the fish to lose any of its brine!
- Place the salmon in the refrigerator and weight it with a plate or a brick on top of it. Cure the salmon for 3 days, turning the salmon stack over once a day.
- To serve, brush off the salt and spices and slice thinly or dice, according to use.