Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gravlax







     Gravlax!
     Scandinavian Gravlax is one of the greatest classic salmon creations that there is!  The salmon is cured with salt and sugar while it is pressed under weight for 3 days.  Many Swedes prefer a 2 to 3 week cure for a much stronger flavor.  After curing under pressure, the salmon becomes very dense and firm, so it is very easy to cut into thin slices.  Properly made Gravlax has a "dry cured salami" kind of flavor and it is not fishy tasting at all.
     The word Gravlax translates to "buried in a grave."  The original Gravlax was made by Scandinavian fishermen.  The fish was salted and buried underground on a beach just above the high tide mark.  The grave process applied weight and protected the fish from scavenger animals.  After about a week or two, the Gravlax was fully fermented and preserved for future use.
     The best salt to use for making Gravlax is Kosher Salt.  The curing properties of Kosher Salt are gentle, so there is less chance of "over-curing or burning" the flesh of the salmon.  Coarse Sea Salt is also traditional, but this type of salt can "over-cure" the meat, which results in a cellular breakdown of the flesh.  If Sea Salt is used, then add a little bit less.
     Sugar is a liquifying agent.  Sugar allows the salt to fully penetrate the salmon flesh, thus resulting in fully cured meat.  Sugar also balances the salt flavor.
     Scandinavian Dill Weed is a strong tasting variety of this plant.  Regular Dill Weed that is found in a common grocery store does not taste as strong, so more should be used.  Dill Weed imparts a very nice flavor to the finished Gravlax.        
     Gravlax is traditionally accompanied by a sweet mustard dill sauce called Hovmästarsås, especially when Gravlax is served with Raggmunk (Scandinavian Potato Pancakes).  Gravlax can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Gravlax most often is served as an appetizer and it can be used to make an interesting banquet style party platter.  
    Many modern chefs prefer a very light cure when making Gravlax.  Sushi quality salmon is a good choice if a light tasting 1 or 2 day cure is desired when making Gravlax.  This is because the curing salt will not have enough time to fully penetrate the meat and the center of the fish filet will be raw.  Sushi quality salmon goes through a deep freeze process to kill parasites and pathogens, so a light cure Gravlax will be safe to serve to guests.
     Classic fully cured Gravlax is best when made with healthy smelling fresh salmon.  Sushi grade salmon is not necessary for making fully cured Gravlax, because the heavy salt curing process will prevent pathogen or parasite contamination after 3 days of curing.  A very thick salmon filet will take a bit longer to fully cure.  
  
     Gravlax:
     This recipe yields 1 whole salmon filet.  An average whole salmon filet weighs about 24 ounces.     
     If the salmon filet is very large, then you can cut it in half or trim off a couple of portions for another recipe.
     Step 1:  Select a very fresh whole salmon at a fish market.
     Cut 1 whole salmon filet from gill to tail.  (About a 24 ounce whole filet)
     Leave the skin on the filet.  
     Use thin pliers to remove all of the pin bones.
     Step 2:  Select 1 flat long plastic tub or 1 shallow long plastic storage containers that is big enough to hold the whole salmon filet.
     Line the container with plastic cling wrap.
     Step 3:  Place a generous amount of fresh large dill weed sprigs on the plastic wrap as a bed for the salmon filet.  (About 1 1/2 bunches.)
     Step 4:  Mix 2 cups of granulated sugar with 1 cup of coarse ground Kosher Salt together in a bowl.
     *It may only take 1 to 2 cups of the sugar and salt mixture to coat a 24 ounce whole salmon filet.  Any extra curing salt mixture can be save for later use!
     Step 5:  Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper on the salmon filet.
     Generously coat the salmon with the sugar and salt mixture.  The salmon should look like it was heavily dredged in sugar and salt.
     Step 6:  Place the salted whole salmon filet on the bed of fresh dill weed in the plastic container.
     Sprinkle 1/3 cup more of the curing salt mixture over the salmon filet. 
     Step 7:  Cover the sides and the top of the salmon filet with a generous amount of large fresh dill weed sprigs.  (About 1 1/2 bunches)
     Cover the salmon with the plastic wrap.
     Step 8:  Select a second long shallow plastic storage container, that will fit inside the salmon container.  This container must be able to cover the salmon.  
     Place a few heavy items (like potatoes or onions) in the storage container that is sitting on top of the salmon.  (The potatoes or onions will act as a weight to press the salmon.)
     Step 9:  Refrigerate the salmon for 3 days.
     Flip the salmon over once every 12 hours.
     *Do not discard the salty brine liquid that develops in the container!  The brine is what actually cures the salmon.
     Step 10:  *After 3 days in the refrigerator, the gravlax is ready!  The gravlax will be completely cured by the sugar and salt.
     Remove the weights and the plastic wrap.
     Remove the gravlax from the plastic container and place it on a cutting board.
     Scrape off the dill sprigs and discard them.
     *The Gravlax can be served immediately or chilled for later use.  It is best to use the Gravlax within  5 days or the patina will cause the flesh to become slimy.  
     Step 11:  To cut thin slices of Gravlax follow these steps:
     • Place the Gravlax on a cutting board with the skin side facing down.
     • Slice the Gravlax at a 45º angle, but do not cut through the skin.
     • When the knife blade starts to touch the skin, turn the handle of the knife so it is parallel with the cutting board, then glide the side of the blade against the fish skin.  The slice of Gravlax meat will be separated from the skin.
     • Place the thin slice of Gravlax on a platter.
     • Continue with this slicing technique till the amount of Gravlax that is needed for a recipe is sliced.

     Viola!  Gourmet classic Scandinavian Gravlax!  More recipes that require Gravlax will be posted real soon!  

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