Gravlaks (Gravlax)

I feel rested during this Thanksgiving holiday since I didn’t have to host or cook for Thanksgiving.  My family took me out to eat and I was able to just enjoy the food and think of other “pertinent” issues, such as coming up with my Christmas treats recipe list for this blog, going to different ethnic supermarkets, and oh yeah, I need to catch up on the shows I missed on TV!!

We love smoked salmon at my house; we love it on bagels, with rice and nori (dried laver), in salad, on crackers, and just about anything!  As of late, I have been buying my smoked salmon at a Russian supermarket.  Being around smoked salmon (a lot) reminded me that I have a gravlaks recipe from my late father-in-law (who was half Finnish).  I started going through my recipe files and found it!!  I acquired this recipe from my father-in-law many years ago after tasting his awesome gravlaks. 

Gravlaks is different from smoked salmon.  First of all, gravlaks aren’t smoked;  they are “cured” with salt and sugar (and in my version with the additional alcohol).  Gravlaks originated from the Nordic countries, and each country has their own version of gravlaks.   According to Wikipedia : During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it 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 “to dig” (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Estonian), and lax (or laks), which means “salmon”, thus gravlax means “buried salmon”.

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I will write down the recipe verbatim as told by my late father-in-law:

Serves 20-

1 salmon fillet with skin (can cut in half; I sometimes use the thick end for dinner and use the tail half for Gravlaks).  We bought a 2 pound salmon fillet.

1 teaspoon white pepper, (looks pretty than black pepper)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
4 ounces cognac
2 ounces sherry, (more if desired.  I don’t measure, just pore some on.  Sweet Sherry works fine). 
4 teaspoons fresh dill, (I don’t see why you can’t use dry dill). 
Chopped capers and finely chopped onions for serving, but not necessary.

** I substituted cognac for vodka, and sherry for rum.  I did use fresh dill, I personally think it makes a difference. 

Lay fish skin side down on a platter or a large dish deep enough to hold liquid (sugar and salt will liquefy). 

In a separate bowl, combine salt, sugar, and pepper.  Rub this mixture evenly over fish.  Drizzle booze and sprinkle dill. 
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Cover fish with wax paper and place with heavy platter over fish.  Place weight over platter and refrigerate 24 hours, basting three times with liquid.
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Gravlaks will keep 2 weeks in fridge (I have had it keep up to 3 weeks).  I baste every other day if not used the next day, in fact, I have never used it with only one day of basting. 

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(I “cured” the salmon for about 2 days)

To serve, place skin side down (I do it in the same dish, but you can put it on a separate dish).  Scrape away dill and slice thin on the diagonal (like flank steak).  Detach from skin. 
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Serve with something like Finn Crisp or thinly cut dark or rye bread.  You can use mild type onion and capers if you wish, but for myself I don’t bother. 

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(I served on thin rusk toast and whole grain crackers – both bought at the Russian market.  I spread a thin layer of cream cheese, layer of gravlaks, thinly sliced cucumber, dollop of Greek style caviar spread, and fresh dill.)

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My opinion:  Just reading through my father-in-laws recipe made me chuckle a bit.  I pictured him talking exactly like he wrote this and made me miss him a bit. 

Love gravlaks!!  If you like smoked salmon you will like gravlaks!  I think this is a very economical and easy way of making your own gravlaks.  Great smoked salmon substitute and equally good tasting!! 

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2 thoughts on “Gravlaks (Gravlax)

  1. so happy for you that for once, you didn t have to slave away in the kitchen (although i m sure you don t really mind, seeing as you love cooking anyways… deshou?) this Thanksgiving and that your family treated you to a well-earned rest.love the recipe for gravadlax, gravlax… (so many different ways of spelling), i love dill and the way the salmon is cured is still so different to smoking ne. thank you for posting! there s a Russian supermarket near to us too, so will try and get some good salmon there 😉

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