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A More Perfect Gravlax

Gravlax made with wild Alaskan coho salmon
Gravlax made with wild Alaskan salmon. Photo courtesy of Alaska Seafood.

Gravlax is a Nordic dish that dates back to the Middle Ages when fishermen would salt and slightly ferment their salmon by burying it in the sand. Grav was an old word meaning to dig, which now means to cure, and lax is salmon.

Mild and delicate, wild coho salmon makes some of the best Gravlax. Using our wild coho salmon fillets, let’s make the perfect Gravlax.

  • 1 Alaska Gold Coho Salmon fillet (~1.5 to 2.25 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup fine-grained salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 2 bunches fresh dill, fronds and stems, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon vodka
  • 3 lemons, sliced into thin rings

Remove the salmon’s pin-bones and cut the fillet into two equal halves. Combine the sugar, salt and pepper. Lay your two salmon pieces on a very large sheet of plastic wrap skin- side down. Cover every bit of salmon flesh with the salt/ sugar/pepper mixture.

In a bowl, toss the chopped dill with the vodka and spread mixture over the top of both fillets.

Layer one piece of salmon with all of the lemon slices–it is important to lay the lemon ON TOP of the dill so that the lemon is not in direct contact with the fillets.

Flip the fillet without lemon slices on top of the other piece so that the lemon slices are surrounded by dill. You should have a gravlax curing sandwich that goes a little something like this: Salmon skin, salmon fillet, salt/sugar/pepper, drunk dill, lemon slices, more drunk dill, salt/sugar/pepper, salmon fillet, salmon skin. Tightly wrap the gravlax twice in plastic wrap and place the bundle in a flat pan with raised edges. A baking dish is great for this. Put a weight on top of the gravlax. I find that a small plastic cutting board with a big can on top works well.

Place the entire set up into the refrigerator. Every 8-12 hours the gravlax needs to be flipped and the liquid that will magically appear in the baking dish needs to be drained. Do this for at least 48 hours, 72 hours if you can stand the wait, flipping and draining morning and night.

When you are ready to eat, unwrap the gravlax and discard the dill/lemon mush. Rinse the fillets to remove any surface salt and sugar. Pat them dry and slice thin at an angle. Wrap and refrigerate anything that you don’t immediately devour.

Use a very sharp knife to thinly slice.

A Perfect Gravlax. Serve with a mustard sauce on bagels for breakfast or with rye bread and some sparkling wine for an appetizer.

This recipe was inspired by a post on Eat Retreat’s website and originally came from Anna Barr Larsen of Siren Fish Co.