I love fish and in general all seafood. But for some reason my love for salmon stands out along with a couple of other Mediterranean and Aegean fish species to make up my top 5 fish list! (No need to mention the other species since they are of no relevancy for this recipe). Gravad Lax is only one of the many delicacies of Scandivanian cuisine, which I came to know during my 4 year stay in Stockholm, quite some years ago in the late 80s. Lax meaning salmon, “gravad lax”, literally means “salmon in a grave” and it is an ancient method of preserving fresh fish by curing it with a salt-sugar mixture and “burying” it in an abundant pile of fresh dill. Apparently, this dish was traditionally made by salting the salmon and burying it in a hole dug at the ocean’s edge (I obtained this information from: http://www.gnolls.org/1887/the-best-gravlax-recipe-on-the-internet/) This particular recipe here is one of the most classic traditional Swedish (or I should probably say Scandinavian) salmon recipes. And I must say it is possibly one of the best ways to eat salmon, in terms of experiencing the full flavor, the incredible color and luscious flesh of this beautiful fish! Not to mention all the health benefits it brings us. Yet you need a tried, verified and safe recipe to make your gravad lax experience a delicious and memorable one, especially if you are not too familiar with this delicacy. I learned how to make gravad lax, after a good amount of research on the Internet, a number of years ago when I discovered to my disappointment that the smoked salmon brands available on the market did not satisfy my palate as gravad lax once did way back in Sweden. So this meant that I had to learn how to make my own gravad lax at the comfort of my own kitchen! I was lucky enough to have picked out a very sound and successful recipe from a Swedish lady (surprisingly not a foodblogger- if you want to find out more you can check the link below). Her recipe is authentic, unpretentious and candidly described. Justwhat I need in a recipe! Even my very first trial was a total success. I have been making gravad lax for so many years now, I can’t even remember how long! I hardly ever bought smoked salmon ever since I learned how to make cured salmon at home! If you like smoked salmon you will LOVE gravad lax and you may never return to the smoked version again! What’s even better is that once you try it you’ll see how easy it is as long as you just meticulously follow each step and don’t play around with anything. Last but not least, I strongly recommend you try making the Swedish style “senapsås” i.e. sweet mustard sauce (recipe provided below) and serve your gravad lax with it. It complements the salty, savory luscious salmon so perfectly! (For the original source of my recipe check out this link : http://www2.ling.su.se/staff/evali/gravlax.htm)
- 1 kg salmon fillet cut from tail, deboned with skin on
- 3 tbsp salt (do NOT use kosher or coarse sea salt or if you must, then make sure it’s finely ground)
- 2-3 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tsp finely ground white pepper (do NOT replace with black pepper)
- 2 big bunches of fresh dill
Step by step method
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- Wash and clean dill, cut off long stems. Chop roughly and separate dill into 3 equal parts.
- Remove any bones that may be left in the salmon flesh using a pair of clean tweezers (I have a pair of tweezers reserved specifically for this purpose)
- Pat dry the salmon with a clean cloth to make sure it is totally dry.
- Mix salt, sugar and white pepper in a bowl, spread equally on both pieces of salmon and rub gently all over with your hands. You can put a little less salt mixture towards the thin end of the fillet.
Now, place one-third of the dill on the bottom of a glass container preferably with lid and place one half of the fillet skin down on top of the bed of dill.
- Next cover the fillet with the second one-third of the dill and place the other half of the salmon fillet on top, this time with skin side up. Make sure that the thin end of the top fillet faces the thick end of the bottom one.
- Finally, cover with remaining dill. Wrap container somewhat loosely with cling wrap, place the lid of the container upside down on top (I always use a rectangular medium size pyrex container with lid).
- Then weigh it down with something relatively heavy. I use 3 beautiful stones I collected
from an Aegean beach years ago, which I use specifically for this purpose. But you can just as well use a few cans of soft drink or anything else that weighs down the lid a bit more than its own weight.
- Place container in the refrigerator and start waiting patiently!
- In the meantime, you’ll have to nurse your salmon fillet, which means that approximately once every 12 hours, you’ll have to take it out of the fridge, pour out the liquid that accumulates in the bottom and flip the whole thing upside down, cover, place weight on top and put back in the fridge. Then repeat the same steps after another 12 hours.
- You should have done this at least 3 times. When it’s time for the 4th flip, you don’t have to flip anymore! Your gravlax is now ready to cut and serve.
- Scrape off the dill and any remainders of the curing mixture. Be gently so that you don’t damage the flesh. Now cut as thinly as you can along the broad surface of the fillet, like shavings. You’ll need a very good quality chef’s knife and a little bit of practice to get this part right! But don’t worry the thicker slices will taste just as good!
Mustard Sauce – “Senapsås”
- 2-3 heaping tbsp mustard (don’t use hot mustard, it has to be regular)
- 1 tsp honey (or sugar)
- ca 2 tsp apple vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have at hand as long as it’s light colored)
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil (I prefer using riviera type, since it’s lighter)
- 2-3 tbsp fresh cream or whole fat milk (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
Place mustard, honey, vinegar plus a pinch of salt in a bowl and blend well. Using a small whisk or fork add olive oil very slowly, in a thin strip, while continuously whisking at the same time. Finally add some fresh cream or milk if you like a creamier consistency, but this part is optional. Taste to check and adjust the sweetness/tartness – this can vary according to your preference. Then add the dill, mix well and serve with your gravad lax. You can keep leftover sauce in a closed jar for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Hope you enjoy & Bon Appétit!