Gravlax

5 Nov

Gravlax. It sounds like some industrial type car polish, or something. When I heard it was a food, I was rather curious, and in my nonsensical naive way I decided it was worth trying out. Now I like fish, but I have unfortunately endured horrific bouts of food poisoning from fish that has either been slightly dodge, or just prepared incorrectly. So, what I’m trying to say is that this was a bold move.

Raw. Fish.

In my fridge….soon to be….in my belly. And hopefully no where else quite too soon, if you catch my drift.

Okay, so ‘gravlax’. Gravlax, or gravad lax has its roots with Scandinavian fishermen, who are said to have buried salmon in the sand on the beach for a while which helped to  preserve it (‘grav’ = hole in the ground, ‘lax’ = salmon). I’m guessing that the amount of salt in the seawater had something to do with it, as traditionally it is cured using salt, sugar and dill.

There are loads of recipes out there; I used one with coriander, white pepper, dill, sugar and salt. Essentially the salt draws the water out of the salmon (food SCIENCE – how cool is that?! It’s called osmosis…water moves from a high concentration of water to a lower concentration of water. As there is a high amount of salt, the concentration of water is proportionally lower, and so the water moveeeeees……..whoever said science wasn’t cool was just SO wrong!).

There are a few different methods for making gravlax, but my goodness it is so easy. It also looks incredibly impressive for a nice nibble or starter, and there’s something ever so satisfying about being able to say, ‘Oh yes, of course I cured the salmon myself’.

You need some salmon, some sugar, salt and dill, and perhaps some other spices of your fancy (check out some of the popular recipes online). Run your fingers along the salmon to find any pesky bones and take them out. Press the salt/sugar/spice/herb mixture into the salmon on both sides, wrap it up tightly in either foil or clingfilm, and then put it in a dish under something really, really heavy (I used our huge stone mortar in a smaller dish). Rotate the salmon every 12 hours for around 36-72 hours. You may find that the longer you leave it the saltier it gets, and depending on the amount of salt in your recipe you’ll end up with a hefty amount of brine in the dish. I poured ours off, but I believe in Scandinavia they often use it for sauces/stocks.

Once it’s done, slice the salmon into very, very fine slices. Some people suggest thickly slicing so I suppose it depends on your tastes, but I prefer it very finely sliced otherwise it may be quite overbearing (and in my mind, salmon should be a delicate food). Serve it with some rye bread, some leaves and a mustardy-lemony-cream cheesy drizzle.

You’ll be pleased to know that yes, my tummy is still very much okay, and no, there was no sign of food poisoning! You can trust it!

On the health front (because I know that you know that I’m all about trying to convince people that healthy food CAN be delicious), this is pretty high in salt, so just keep an eye on that (check out my earlier post about the health effects of too much salt in the diet). However, salmon is a great source many great nutrients, such as protein (essential for helping build and repair important tissues in your body – especially muscles. Take note, you athletic types!), omega-fatty-acids (good for a host of things such as contributing towards maintaining healthy cholesterol  levels, a healthy heart and a healthy brain!) and vitamin D. 

Vitamin D is a super important vitamin (well, they’re all pretty important, but I’m focusing on this one today). Normally we are able to create vitamin D through some funky reactions which happen in our body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. The problem is, it’s now November, it’s freezing, and there’s hardly ANY sunlight! Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, the theory is that seasons (i.e. winter) modify levels of vitamin D. When it’s summer, there’s lots, when it’s winter, there’s much less. Vitamin D has in turn been linked with emotional states and depression, so the low levels of vitamin D may cause your mood and emotions (or, ‘affect’) to change, and we can get a bit glum. So it’s important to consume foods high in vitamin D around about now. Additionally, vitamin D is important for calcium absorption in your gut (calcium is essential for healthy, strong bones), and a whole host of other fabulous bodily functions which are necessary to keep us ticking over. Happily.

More salmon, anyone?

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2 Responses to “Gravlax”

  1. Oscar November 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Good trick for slicing thinly – Freeze the salmon and slice it as it begins to defrost. (Not immediately after taking it out.. but once it starts to soften a little)

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  1. Quick Prep-ahead Party Nibbles « DrinksAndNibbles - December 10, 2012

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