Thursday, April 28, 2011

Experiments in Home Curing

As I've recently professed my obsession with charcuterie it shouldn't be surprising to see meat curing, smoking, etc. appearing on my blog, I give you the preface so that you aren't surprised as more and more of these items start appearing. Last summer I learned to can (thanks Mom!) and rejected all fear of botulism or poisoning my family and friends with my canned goodies. This summer I will conquer the slightly more difficult (in my mind) art of curing meat, starting with salmon.

Many many moons ago, during the middle ages, gravlax was made by fishermen who salted and fermented salmon by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means "grave" or "hole in the ground, and lax (or laks), which means "salmon", thus gravlax means "buried salmon." While fermentation is no longer part of the process, salt and curing for a few days certainly are.

1 Cup Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp Whole Peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 Bunch Fresh Dill
2 Lbs Fresh Salmon, Cut into 2 pieces
1/4 Cup Gin

1. Place the one piece of the salmon (skin-side down) in a dish you can zip into a freezer ziploc bag.
2. In a bowl mix together the salt, sugar and peppercorns. Sprinkle half the mixture on top of the piece of salmon in the dish. Place the dill on the salmon and pour remaining salt mixture on top, lay second piece of salmon, flesh-side down on top of the other piece.
3. Pour gin over the salmon. Zip salmon up removing as much air as possible and place in fridge.
4. Turn salmon every 12 hours, cure for 48-72 hours.
5. After it is cured to your liking, wipe salt mixture and dill off of salmon using a damp paper towel. Salmon can be stored wrapped in wax paper and in a ziploc back for up to 12 days.

While I used the exact ingredients above for my Gravlax I will likely substitute brown sugar for the regular white sugar next time. I think the brown sugar flavor will meld better with the flavors of the salmon and cure. Gravlax can be served by slicing it thinly and eating it with cream cheese and bread or a bagel. I found a great springy salad in Eugenia Bone's cookbook, Well Preserved that used Gravlax as well.

Gravlax and Shaved Fennel Salad
Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone

2 Fennel Bulbs, Greens and Core Removed, Shaved
12 Slices Gravlax (about 1/2 lb), cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Light Oil, Like Safflower
2 Tbsp Minced Fresh Chives or Dill

1. In a small bowl, combine the shaved fennel and the gravlax.
2. Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper (to taste). Add the oil in a slow dribble, whisking all the while, until you have used all the oil and the vinaigrette thickens.
3. Toss the fennel and gravlax in the vinaigrette. Gently pile a quarter of the salad onto each of four small plates. Garnish each salad with chives.

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