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Rich cured salmon with salty, fatty flavors, gravlax is a simple yet sumptuous Scandanavian dish that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — it even makes a tasty snack! This beet cured gravlax is visually stunning and a delicious way to enjoy fresh, seasoned salmon any time of the day.
When you think of cured salmon gravlax, you might think of fancy lunches or Jewish holidays. However, this refreshing, elegant dish made of seasoned fresh salmon is actually super simple to make and can be eaten virtually any way you want it, similar to slices of rich smoked salmon.
Its fresh, herby flavors make it lovely for breakfast, especially when paired with toasted everything bagels and cream cheese. If you’re a fan of sashimi, you may even choose to serve slices of salmon gravlax alongside spicy edamame!
After some minor prep, all you’ve got to do is leave this salmon in the refrigerator for a few days and voila, you’ve got enough delicate slices of briny, herby beet cured gravlax to feed the whole family. With its vibrant redish-purple hue, it’s also great for entertaining!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Salmon Filet – It’s important that you purchase sashimi-grade salmon for this recipe, or fresh salmon that has been frozen immediately. You can use skinless, but the skin helps keep everything together.
- Kosher Salt – The key to curing. Kosher salt is flaky and coarse which helps it infuse into the meat. Substitute only with coarse sea salt.
- Black Peppercorns – Use whole peppercorns and freshly toast them for a full, robust flavor profile.
- Coriander Seeds – Freshly toasted to add a nutty, citrusy flavor. Substitute with caraway, cumin, or fennel seeds.
- Cumin Seeds – These add earthiness, warmth, and citrus. It’s not recommended to substitute with cumin powder, as it will not have the same curing effect. Use caraway or coriander instead.
- Fennel Seeds – Adds a zing of herbaceous, mildly spicy-sweet aromatics.
- Sugar – Another key to curing. Don’t use anything super-fine like caster sugar. The granules should be semi-coarse to infuse the salmon with sweetness, but not too much — we don’t want sugary salmon!
- Lemon & Orange Zest – Adds a refreshing, bright layer of flavor. Substitute with any citrus.
- Beets – Adds a vibrant magenta hue to the salmon while absorbing water and infusing the fish with a hint of earthy flavor.
HOW TO MAKE GRAVLAX
1. Toast & Grind Seeds. In a small skillet, toast your peppercorns and seeds until they’re nice and fragrant. Once cooled, grind seeds finely with a spice grinder (coffee bean grinder), or mortar and pestle.
2. Mix Ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together ground seeds, kosher salt, sugar, citrus zest, and grated beets.
3. Prepare Salmon. Rinse salmon filet thoroughly with cold water and pat it dry.
4. Remove any Pin Bones. Carefully remove any pin bones you may feel on the surface on the salmon using a pair of needle-nose pliers:
- Feel along the length of the salmon with your fingertips. The pin bones tend to be in the thickest part of the fish toward the middle. If you can’t find any pin bones, it’s likely that your butcher or fishmonger removed them prior to packaging the fish.
- When located, press the flesh next to the tip gently so that the bone pokes above the surface just slightly. Grab this exposed bit of bone with the pliers.
- You’ll feel some resistance when you gently tug on the bone. Pull the bone out of the salmon in as smooth a motion as possible. Pin bones are slightly angled toward the head of the fish, so pull all of them slightly sideways and up. Repeat with all remaining pin bones.
5. Coat The Fish. Lay two large sheets of plastic wrap on your counter so that they slightly overlap. Spread half of your beet-cure mixture on the plastic and lay the salmon on top of it, skin side down. Use your hands to press the remaining cure mixture on the salmon, pressing down so that it sticks. Bring the plastic wrap over the salmon and wrap the filet tightly and once more with more plastic wrap to secure.
6. Let It Cure. Leave your sealed-up salmon in the refrigerator for 2 to 5 days with plenty of heavy weight on top of it.
7. Unwrap & Rinse. Carefully run the fish under cool running water, using your hands to remove any caked-on ingredients in the sink. Be careful as the beet juice can easily stain.
8. Slice & Serve. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, then use a very sharp knife to thinly slice the filet.
What is the Difference Between Lox, Nova, and Gravlax?
All of these foods are simply different ways of preparing fresh salmon. Nova is cold smoked salmon, lox usually refers to salmon belly meat that is salt-cured but not smoked, and gravlax is salmon that is cured with various seasonings.
What to Eat With Gravlax?
Traditionally, this Scandinavian salmon is served on pumpernickel bread with a hearty drizzle of mustard. It also goes well on any seedy bread along with crisp slices of red onion, cream cheese, or anything pickled.
What is the Purpose of Curing Salmon?
Curing meats is a preservation method. By coating the fish in salt, most of the water is extracted from the fish in an effort to prevent it from spoiling. Curing also infuses salmon with lots of flavor.
Can Gravlax be Frozen?
If you made this recipe with fresh (not frozen) salmon, you can tightly seal slices or filets with plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months.
How to Make Gravlax (Cured Salmon)
- In a small skillet over medium heat toast the peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then finely grind in spice grinder or with mortar and pestle.
- Transfer to a small bowl and mix with kosher salt, sugar, citrus zest and grated beets. Set aside.
- Rinse salmon with cold water and pat dry salmon with paper towels. Using needle nose pliers, remove any pin bones you may feel by running your hand over salmon. Pull and discard.
- Lay 2 sheets of plastic wrap on counter, slightly overlapping. Spread half the beet salt cure down and then lay salmon, skin side down, on top. Pack remaining beet salt cure on top, pressing to adhere. Bring up the sides of the plastic wrap and wrap around the fish. Wrap once more to secure and seal completely.
- Place wrapped salmon in a deep dish or rimmed baking tray. Set another smaller dish on top of salmon and weight it down with cans, bricks or something heavy.
- Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 days, or up to 5 days to cure.
- Unwrap salmon and rinse under cool running water, running hand and fingers over salmon to remove caked beet salt cure and spices. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Transfer salmon to cutting board, skin side down. Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice holding the blade at a diagonal.
- Serve with these optional ideas: pumpernickel bread, toasted bagels, cream cheese, capers, chopped or thinly sliced red onions, sliced tomatoes and or dill sprigs or sprouted greens.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.