The parasites in wild salmon are no joke. You can make gravlax with farmed salmon (don’t) but I find that it is best to buy salmon that has been previously frozen commercially. Freezing will kill parasites, but in a home freezer it is necessary to hold the salmon frozen for 7 days before thawing. That’s a lot of waiting! It is likely that the wild salmon in your local fish market has been previously frozen, so confirm this with your fishmonger before you start curing your fish. You can also freeze the finished gravlax, but that doesn’t get you around the waiting problem.
Wild Salmon Gravlox
- 1 3.5 to 4 pound salmon fillet, preferably skin on 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 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
PREPARE THE SALMON & CURE
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.
TIME TO MAKE A SANDWICH
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.
NOW FOR THE WAITING AND THE FLIPPING
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. Gravlax can also be frozen and will keep for 6 months if vacuum packaged prior to freezing.