Watch Cooking Channel

Super Food Nerds: How to Make Gravlax


Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a  column written in alternating installments by Rupa (Food and Beverage Editor, Culinary Staff) and Jonathan (Research Librarian, same place). Each installment will be dedicated to a particular topic – how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if they can overthink it, they’re on it.

Cured fish is basically my favorite food. Smoked eel, pickled herring, kippered whitefish, weird dried squid snacks you eat in Russian saunas — I’m all about it. But it’s expensive, and I’m on a budget, so I wanted to see if I could make it myself.

There are a few ways to go about curing fish: brining and cold-smoking (at a temperature of about 100 degrees F), like most smoked salmon you see sold with bagels; brining and hot-smoking (so it’s flaky and rich, mostly done with trout); and gravlax, a dry salt cure, which gets you the silky texture of cold-smoke without the smoking part.

Gravlax is a traditional Scandinavian way of curing fish — it translates literally to “buried salmon,” since the fish used to be buried in the ground to cure. Now the fish gets buried in the dry salt-sugar cure, and since it’s the quickest, easiest way to get the fish from zero to my mouth, that’s the method I picked.

The traditional gravlax cure is a 1:1 ratio of salt to sugar, along with spices, herbs and a splash of liquor. (Salt does the curing. Sugar balances out the saltiness. Spices, herbs and liquor add flavor.) The traditional fish is salmon, but given the cost of wild salmon, and the absence of a sustainable salmon alternative, I thought I’d try with arctic char. Char is a thinner fish than salmon, so it cures faster and doesn’t need to be weighted while curing.

Fish in hand, I got to work. Salt and sugar were a given, but the rest of the seasoning was up for discussion. Since I love everything bagels, but can’t eat them, I thought everything-bagel seasoning (dried garlic, dried onion, poppy seeds and sesame seeds) would get me the best of all possible worlds: bagel flavor, no bagel necessary. (I also tried a tequila, chile and cilantro version, as well as a garam masala one, but everything bagel came out best.)

I piled the cures on, wrapped the fish well, put it on a rimmed sheet pan in the fridge and called it a day.

After 24 hours, I rinsed off the cure, patted the fish dry and started slicing.

(See the recipe for specific slicing instructions; the longer and sharper your knife, the better, and the thinner your slices, the better. In an ideal world, you should be able to read the newspaper through each slice.)

The onion and garlic come through the most, but the flavor is still pretty delicate — what you really get is rich, buttery, almost-concentrated fish.

Garnishing with extra poppy and sesame seeds gets you the whole everything-bagel experience, along with a little textural contrast.

But, when I sent the recipe to our test kitchen for cross-testing, everything went awry. After many, many rounds of testing, this is what we learned:

Char cures beautifully after 24 hours in the fridge. Salmon, which we also tried, can cure somewhat erratically depending on its thickness. We played around with weighting and flipping and still occasionally ended up with a demarcation line after which the salmon remained uncured — it was delicious, but not exactly right. So char it was, and char it continues to be; I’ve cured a whole fish per week since starting this project just to eat at home, and that shows no signs of slowing.

Get the Recipe: Everything Bagel Artic Char Gravlax

More Super Food Nerds

Tags:

Comments (1552)

  1. Jailhouse Rock guitar posted 12/26/2013

    Yahoo results…

    While searching Yahoo I found this page in the results and I didn’t think it fit…

  2. careers in criminal justice posted 12/26/2013

    careers in criminal justice…

    [...]The info talked about in the post are a number of the top readily available [...]…

  3. Marketing Techniques posted 12/26/2013

    Title…

    [...]usually posts some very exciting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]…

  4. Summer Of 69 Chords posted 12/27/2013

    Digg…

    While checking out DIGG today I noticed this…

  5. Noah Swancutt posted 12/27/2013

    resources for reading…

    This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!…

  6. biggest trucks posted 12/27/2013

    biggest trucks…

    [...]here are some links to internet sites that we link to due to the fact we consider they’re worth visiting[...]…

  7. OSMANLI TOKADI posted 12/27/2013

    OSMANLI…

    [...]The total glance of your site is great, let smartly as the content![...]…

  8. Direct Payday Lenders posted 12/27/2013

    Title…

    [...]please visit the web-sites we adhere to, like this one, as it represents our picks in the web[...]…

  9. william B posted 12/28/2013

    Title…

    [...]that may be the finish of this article. Right here you will uncover some sites that we believe you’ll enjoy, just click the links over[...]…

  10. Title…

    [...]usually posts some pretty intriguing stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]…

  11. Recent Blogroll Additions……

    [...]usually posts some very interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]……

  12. denver limo drivers posted 12/29/2013

    denver limo drivers…

    [...]please check out the web sites we comply with, including this one, as it represents our picks through the web[...]…

  13. click here posted 12/29/2013

    Title…

    [...]always a large fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get lots of link like from[...]…

  14. deezer gratuit posted 12/29/2013

    Visitor recommendations…

    [...]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[...]……

  15. sun rich travel posted 12/29/2013

    Title…

    [...]although web sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they’re essentially worth a go as a result of, so have a look[...]…

  16. 77TVhPzDyg 77TVhPzDyg posted 12/29/2013

    Third Flower…

    My spouse and i are already now delighted that Albert could execute his scientific tests due to the concepts he had as a result of your online page. It truly is every now and then perplexing to only generally be making a gift of measures which some ind…

  17. premier posted 12/30/2013

    Title…

    [...]Here is a great Blog You may Obtain Interesting that we Encourage You[...]…

  18. powell roofing posted 12/31/2013

    Yahoo results…

    While browsing Yahoo I discovered this page in the results and I didn’t think it fit…

  19. Houston wedding videographer posted 12/31/2013

    Awesome website…

    [...]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[...]……

  20. website templates posted 12/31/2013

    website templates…

    [...]check beneath, are some absolutely unrelated sites to ours, on the other hand, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[...]…

  21. tin tuc nen em posted 12/31/2013

    Title…

    [...]that would be the finish of this article. Right here you’ll uncover some web-sites that we consider you will appreciate, just click the links over[...]…

  22. Ashley Hale posted 01/01/2014

    Superb website…

    [...]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[...]……

  23. zack childress posted 01/01/2014

    Dreary Day…

    It was a dreary day here today, so I just took to messing around online and realized…

  24. best cannabis seeds posted 01/01/2014

    Wikia…

    Wika linked to this website…

  25. villa posted 01/01/2014

    Looking around…

    I like to browse in various places on the internet, often I will go to Stumble Upon and read and check stuff out…

  26. Just Browsing…

    While I was surfing today I saw a excellent article about…

  27. PrankDial posted 01/02/2014

    Looking around…

    I like to browse around the internet, often I will just go to Stumble Upon and follow thru…

  28. bet on World Cup soccer posted 01/02/2014

    Informative and precise…

    Its difficult to find informative and precise information but here I found…

  29. 3 credit scores posted 01/02/2014

    Informative and precise…

    Its difficult to find informative and accurate information but here I noted…

  30. 6 Quick Heart-Healthy Habits posted 01/03/2014

    Title…

    [...]Every after in a while we opt for blogs that we study. Listed beneath are the most up-to-date internet sites that we choose [...]…

  31. Desenvolvimento de websites posted 01/03/2014

    Tumblr article…

    I saw someone talking about this on Tumblr and it linked to…

  32. Digg…

    While checking out DIGG today I noticed this…

  33. vigrx plus coupon code posted 01/03/2014

    vigrx plus coupon code…

    [...]check beneath, are some absolutely unrelated web sites to ours, even so, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[...]…

  34. Sewa Ht Bandung posted 01/03/2014

    Digg…

    While checking out DIGG yesterday I noticed this…

  35. wells dentist posted 01/04/2014

    Cool sites…

    [...]we came across a cool site that you might enjoy. Take a look if you want[...]……

  36. SEO Training in Vancouver posted 01/04/2014

    Online Article……

    [...]The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available [...]……

  37. blinds md posted 01/04/2014

    Title…

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a few unrelated information, nevertheless seriously really worth taking a search, whoa did a single study about Mid East has got much more problerms at the same time [...]…

  38. short articles posted 01/05/2014

    Title…

    [...]Here are several of the websites we advise for our visitors[...]…

  39. Kim K Superstar posted 01/05/2014

    Title…

    [...]The information mentioned inside the post are some of the top available [...]…

  40. full story posted 01/05/2014

    Title…

    [...]usually posts some really intriguing stuff like this. If you are new to this site[...]…

  41. fitness blog posted 01/05/2014

    Title…

    [...]just beneath, are quite a few entirely not related websites to ours, having said that, they’re certainly really worth going over[...]…

  42. get rid tattoo naturally posted 01/05/2014

    get rid tattoo naturally…

    [...]we came across a cool web page which you might love. Take a search when you want[...]…

  43. Title…

    [...]usually posts some incredibly interesting stuff like this. If you are new to this site[...]…

  44. gator host posted 01/06/2014

    Sites we Like……

    [...] Every once in a while we choose blogs that we read. Listed below are the latest sites that we choose [...]……

  45. thecandycrushlevel.com posted 01/06/2014

    thecandycrushlevel.com…

    [...]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine several unrelated information, nevertheless really worth taking a search, whoa did one master about Mid East has got more problerms at the same time [...]…

  46. local moving huntsville al posted 01/06/2014

    Title…

    [...]although sites we backlink to below are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they’re truly really worth a go via, so have a look[...]…

  47. curtains posted 01/06/2014

    Sites we Like……

    [...] Every once in a while we choose blogs that we read. Listed below are the latest sites that we choose [...]……

  48. 2014 Coupons posted 01/06/2014

    Title…

    [...]below you’ll obtain the link to some web-sites that we feel you need to visit[...]…

  49. youtube partnership posted 01/07/2014

    You should check this out…

    [...] Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a few unrelated data, nevertheless really worth taking a look, whoa did one learn about Mid East has got more problerms as well [...]……

  50. durch last…

    infrared lunsingh dyatel meritoire historica jaffar travelin….

Post a New Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

c