As I mentioned in a previous post, I found a new hobby last summer. It started with blueberry chai jam and continued from there. The bottom shelf of my china “cabinet” (it’s really just a bookshelf we’ve repurposed to hold the fine dinnerware) is starting to fill with jars. At this point, I’ve done more research and recipe browsing than actual canning. One resource I’ve enjoyed perusing is Food in Jars. Marisa has conceived a great idea – the idea of preserving something in a different way each month. When I saw the February project, I knew it was time to try an idea I had tucked away.
February was salt preserves. There are some fun ideas including DIY herb salt and salt cured duck egg yolks. (I have actually tried salt cured yolks, after hearing that it was a surprisingly good dairy-free substitute for Parmesan. Turns out is weird, but awesome. You should definitely try it the next time you’re making a recipe that calls for whites only. But, I digress) Once I saw gravlax listed as an idea, I was hooked (pun intended).
I have a running list of recipe ideas and I knew it was time to pull one of them out: gin spiced gravlax. Now, my original idea was to try a vodka cured gravlax – only with gin. But, in staying true to the spirit of the challenge, I decided to deconstruct the gin into its spice components. There had to be juniper, obviously but it turns out that the other botanical ingredients/flavors of gin vary wildly. After some research, I decided to take a bit of a shortcut and use an herb blend, as well as juniper.
I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. While I used a skin-on salmon filet, you could use a skinless filet for a shorter curing time and more pronounced gin flavor. Remember that whenever you are curing or serving raw protein, make sure you’re using a high-quality product from a vendor you trust.
This would make a great addition to a brunch. While you have to plan ahead, it’s not very labor intensive – just make sure to set ‘flip the fish’ reminders in your phone! I omitted the dill fronds simply for convenience (I was being lazy and didn’t want to make another grocery store run) but you could certainly use the traditional approach.
Gin Spiced Gravlax
Adapted from Serious Eats The Elements of Great Gravlax
1 lb fresh, wild caught salmon filet
1/4 c. salt
3 cups water
2 tsp. juniper berries
5 whole green cardamom pods
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. sea salt*
1 Tbsp white sugar
2 tsp Herbes de Provence**
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup gin
* Note: You should use a fine, dry sea salt. I use La Baleine French salt.
** Note: Herbes de Provence is a traditional French herb blend. While the ingredients can vary some, typically the blend includes savory, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and (the hallmark ingredient) lavender.
Directions: Place the filet in a rectangular glass dish, big enough to hold the whole filet comfortably. Mix 1/4 cup salt with 3 cups water. Pour over the salmon, the water should completely cover the filet. Soak the salmon in the salt water solution just while you prepare the herbs, 5-10 minutes.
With a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder, crack the juniper berries. Add in the cardamom pods and crush together slightly. Mix in the salt, sugar, and Herbes de Provence.
Remove the salmon filet from the water and pat dry. Dry out the dish. Place a long sheet of plastic wrap in the bottom of the dish – you’ll wrap the filet in the plastic wrap. I find it’s easiest not to rip the plastic wrap yet. Put the salmon filet on the plastic wrap and evenly sprinkle all of the herb salt mix over the top of the filet. (If you’re using a skinless filet, reserve half of the salt for the other side of the filet.) There will probably be a thicker side of the salmon, you may want to press a bit of the mixture onto the side as well.
Tightly wrap the salmon filet in plastic and put the wrapped filet back into the glass dish. To ensure the salmon cures evenly, I suggest weighing down the filet with a heavy pan (cans of beans inside a bread pan worked perfectly for me).
Every 12-ish hours, flip the filet. You can cure it anywhere from 24-48 hours, depending on your preference. I like it slightly firmer (more cured) so I let mine go for about 48 hours.
When the gravlax is cured to your preference, remove from the plastic. Place the filet on a cutting board and use the dull edge of a knife to scrape off the herbs. It’s fine if you don’t get all the tiny bits, but you’ll want to make sure to get any big pieces of juniper berry or cardamom pod off.
Slice and serve. It’s best if eaten within a few days.
Post Script: Turns out, it’s actually kind of challenging to adequately describe the process. It’s easier than it sounds but there are plenty of directions out there, so if mine don’t make sense to you, just google a few other gravlax recipes!