I love smoke cured salmon – there’s no two ways about it. I love the creamy oily texture, the smoky and salty punch and how it combines so wonderfully with capers, dill and cream cheese on a warmed bagel.But me being me I wanted to be able to create a cured salmon at home. The difficulty with home smoking is that most foods end up cooked. When smoking in an enclosed smoking box, for example, the heat used to produce the smoke is enough to cook the food. Smoked salmon is cold smoked, so unless you have specialised equipment or indeed a smokehouse hanging around the back garden – maybe one day – the next best thing is to cure the salmon with salt.
Curing fish with salt and sugar has been practised in Scandanavia for many centuries, and today is known as gravlax, gravadlax or lox in English speaking countries. The purpose of curing with salt and sugar is to preserve the salmon as well as impart a lightly salted taste. The salt also causes the salmon to lose some of its moisture as well as a breakdown of some of the salmon proteins which in turn tenderises the fish. So using the historical base of salmon fillet, salt and sugar I have played around with curing salmon by adding various additional flavours and varying curing times to get a lightly salted salmon with a fragrant nuance. This following recipe is one that I now use regularly for home-cured citrus salmon.
Citrus Cured SalmonPrint
- ■ 300g salmon fillet piece | I use fresh Tasmanian salmon fillet, ensuring that it is trimmed of any sinew and has been skinned.
- ■ 1 lemon - zest of | Finely grated.
- ■ 1 navel orange - zest of | Finely grated.
- ■ 1 lime - zest of | Finely grated.
- ■ 100g sea salt | I use Maldon sea salt flakes.
- ■ 75g raw sugar | This is the large brown granular sugar. Sometimes I use an organic sugar called Rapadura from Colombia which has an intensely caramelised flavour.
- ■ 2 star anise pods |
- ■ ½ tsp. coriander seeds |
Take all the ingredients, apart from the salmon fillet, and blitz in a miniature blender or with a hand blender for about 30 seconds. The key here is to get a uniform mixture where the spices have been broken down and the zests, sugar and salt are well mixed.
Lay out a sheet of cling film (about 40 cm in length) and to the middle spoon about half of the salt mix. Spread and shape the mix in to a rectangle, slight larger than the base of the salmon fillet. Place the fillet on top of the salt mix and then spoon the rest of the mix on top of the salmon, again spreading so this time the top of the fillet is completely covered. Now tightly wrap the cling film around the salmon and salt mix, ensuring that there are no gaps that leave the salmon exposed. Take another piece of cling film the same size as the first and wrap it tightly around the salmon. Repeat this with a third piece of cling film. Put the salmon in a fridge for 10 hours to cure – I recommend putting a plate or kitchen paper under the salmon as sugary salty liquid is sure to seep out. After 10 hours, unwrap the salmon and wash away the salt mixture with cold water, until completely removed, and then wash the salmon again for good measure. Pat the salmon dry and then wrap in a piece of cling film, unless you are using straight away. I keep this in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or freeze it for up to a month.
This salmon is lightly salted, which is my preference. For a more intense saltiness and flavour you can weigh the salmon down whilst it is curing with a baking tray with a couple of tins of beans on it, for example. The weight encourages more of the moisture to be removed from the salmon. Also you can cure the salmon for longer, say up to 24 hours. Experimentation is the best part.