We love curing our own salmon at home. It’s a great opportunity to experiment with different flavour combinations. If you use the spices and alcohol you may already have in your cupboard, this recipe can be an inexpensive way of creating a sophisticated canapé or appetiser. This recipe idea is based upon the traditional Nordic gravlax dish.
The recipe starts with a basic cure of salt and sugar. If you plan to use an additional sweet ingredient in your cure (maple syrup, black treacle or honey) use equal parts salt and sugar. If not, go for a combination of two parts salt to three parts sugar for your basic cure.
In choosing the additions to your cure, I would suggest only including 3-4 additional ingredients. Licorice/anise-based flavours always work well: fennel or caraway seeds, star anise, dill, tarragon, treacle, and akvavit. Using beetroot imparts additional colour and sweetness to the salmon. Liquid smoke can be used to achieve a “fake” smoked salmon effect. The alcoholic addition is not necessary, however, I believe it may help in the preserving of the raw salmon.
As for some flavour combinations, here are a few suggestions.
- Caraway, beetroot, treacle, akvavit
- Juniper, pink peppercorns, cucumber, gin
- Fennel, dill, vodka
- Coriander, liquid smoke, maple, bourbon
If you have time and the ingredients, its worth trying out two different combinations so that you can compare them and decide upon your favourite!
Serves: 6 as an appetiser
Skill level: Easy
Equipment required: Food processor, vacuum food sealer (optional) or zip-lock food bags
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus minimum overnight curing time
Cooking time: n/a
Basic cure mix
400g Salmon (Approximately half a side of salmon)
150g pure sea salt (without anti-caking agent – go for crystals, like Maldon’s)
150g demerara or light brown sugar
Spices & herbs
Juniper berries, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, pink peppercorns, orange peel, dill, tarragon
50-75ml Vodka, gin, bourbon, whiskey, tequila, akvavit
Beetroot, cucumber, maple syrup, liquid smoke, treacle, honey
Rye or brown bread, cream cheese, horseradish, lemon juice
Step 1: Prepare your salmon by dividing into the number of different cures you plan to create. If you are going for a short cure (overnight, or 10-12 hours) I would suggest using smaller pieces of salmon and removing the skin from the salmon to enable the flavours to penetrate the flesh as much as possible.
Step 2: Prepare your cure. If you are using whole spices briefly roast them in a dry pan before grinding in a mortar and pestle with a little salt. Add the spices to your herbs and other flavour components, and combine with the rest of the salt and sugar in a food processor.
Step 3: Place your cure and salmon into your bags ensuring that the cure fully surrounds the fish. Remove as much air from the bag as possible (this is where the vacuum food sealer is helpful) and close. Place the bags in the fridge. If you’re using zip-lock food bags, its worth placing the bags in a dish in case they leak.
Step 4: Leave the salmon to cure for a minimum of 10 hours. The longer the cure, the more moisture is removed from the fish (resulting in a firmer texture), and the more flavour is imparted.
Step 5: After curing, remove the salmon and quickly rinse the meat under cold water to remove the cure. Pat dry, and slice finely.
Step 6: Assemble your dish as you prefer. We enjoy combining horseradish with lemon juice and cream cheese, spreading this mixture on wholegrain rye bread, and layering the fish on top.
We’d be keen to here from you if you have any flavour combination suggestions or successes!
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