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Cheapskate's Smoked Salmon


When I made it for the holidays the first year after we were married, Denise emerged from the kitchen with a look on her face that shouted " Who the heck did I marry?"

"Honey," she said, "why are there bricks in our refrigerator?"

"What?" I said, trying to hide a grin.  "I thought those were yours.  I mean, don't you know that masonry products should always be refrigerated?"

She was not amused, so I knew it was time to share with my bride the first of my many cheapskate family secrets.  I was making gravlax, a holiday tradition in our family.  Sometimes called "poor man's smoked salmon," gravlax is Scandinavian style dry-cured salmon. 

While traditional smoked salmon or lox can cost anywhere from $20 to $120 per pound, when you make your own gravlax, you only have the cost of salmon fillets (about $8 per pound where we live) and a few other inexpensive ingredients you probably already have on hand.

1.  Fillets can be used with skin on or removed.  Use only freshly caught salmon or commercially frozen fillets (thawed), as commercial freezing kills any microorganisms.

 2.  Sprinkle one tablespoon (per pound of fish) of any of the following on the fillets:  lemon juice, vodka, gin, and/or brandy.

 3.  Season fillets with dill (dried or fresh) and/or cracked black pepper, if desired. 

 4.  Mix equal parts salt (kosher, if possible) and white sugar, enough to coat fillets. 

 5.  Places individual fillets in zip-lock type plastic bags. Add ample amount of salt/sugar mixture to thoroughly coat filets on all sides (you can't really add too much).

 6.  Seal the plastic bags, removing all air. Place a single layer of fillets in their bags in a glass baking dish. Place a (clean!) brick or other weight on top of each filet to press it down, and put in the refrigerator. 

 7.  After 24 hours, turn the fillets over, replace the brick, and return to refrigerator. Repeat one final time 24 hours later. 

 8.  After a total of three days, the fish should be fully cured and ready to eat. Drain off the excess juices that have been extract from the fillets, and slice thinly as you would smoked salmon, on the bias and without the skin.   

 [CAUTION:  Even though the bricks will have a heavenly salmon aroma about them after preparing this dish, attempting to consume them is not recommended.]

As is the case with consuming raw fish anywhere - do exercise caution when purchasing, preparing and serving this dish.

Photo by Astacus

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