Gravlax at home: You know you want to, this cured salmon deserves a place atop crackers and cheese, topping off your morning bagel, in place of the Canadian bacon on your eggs benedict (this please, over and over again). Get the how-to.
This thing I do, life, sometimes I am terrible at it. I fail.
More often than not, actually.
My house is in shambles. It has reached and then exceeded the acceptable level of dirt and grime for accommodating four children beneath its shingles. There are piles. There are smears. There are spiders living in plain sight, just hanging out in the corner and mocking me.
I am not proud.
Today I missed Kjell’s last baseball game of the season. I ignored the dining room linoleum, spotted with berry juice and dead grass tracked in from the back door by bare feet, slick from the pool. I piled unfolded laundry high on the couch so not even the smallest of bottoms could fit on a cushion. I bit my tongue until it bled, tinny on my taste buds.
When I wanted to cry, I laughed with my children instead. When I wanted to make excuses, I walked out the door with my daughters to do my familial responsibility with my mom and sisters, sending my boys to baseball alone. When I wanted to sleep, I sat awake making up for time lost to life that lingered.
My garden, it looks like that, but what photos fail to emphasize is that my grass is rather spotty. There is a mud pit beneath the swing set. Creeping Charlie crawls from the flower beds, threatening daily to squeeze the life out of the more desirable plants I put there and leave only its green self with tiny purple flowers in their place. I weed far too infrequently because I have to choose my battles, and Mount Laundry is often more compelling.
That is the real. My brain resets on real every night.
I’m not complaining. Life is real: saturated with all the colors of living, and not just the sparkling ones.
You think the grass will be greener on the other side, if only, when. Don’t you ever get sick of the fake? Let’s consider for a moment, farmed salmon to its classier, GMO-free cousin, the wild caught. The wild caught is brighter, the red flesh glistening, singing praises of a life well swam. A life wrought with the search for food, predators, droughts, rocks, and tight corners. The farmed, pale and plump with corn belly, sometimes dyed to give the appearance of that life well swam it most certainly did not swim. The proverbial grass is certainly not greener on the other side of this equation, the fancy, technology-laden farmed unable to sustain without consequences and lacking the luster of the real deal.
Let’s live a life worth living, full of ups and downs, knowing the brightest patches of grass are greenest on account of the creeping vines. Let’s live a life peppered with fresh wild salmon, frozen when it’s not running. Let’s live a life full of frozen berries and seasonal produce. Let’s stop feeling so entitled to have what we want immediately when we want it.
- Fun fact! Gravlax or gravad laks or gravad lax or graflax comes from the words for grave and salmon. Gravlax is grave salmon on account of burying it in sand and salt or, here, sugar and salt.
- We used a lovely fatty chunk cut off a larger King salmon for this. The King’s firm texture made it ideal for curing and then slicing.
- The post-cure rinsing and soaking did wonders for achieving the desired flavor for gravlax. Our first attempt, which included rinsing but not soaking left the salmon a bit too salty. Soak it.
1/3 cup pickling salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh dill
Rinse the salmon fillet and pat dry. Remove all pin bones that may remain with a pair of pliers. In a small bowl, mix together the pickling salt and the sugar.
Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. In the center sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the salt and sugar mixture. Place the skin side of the fish on top of the salt and sugar. Use the remaining salt and sugar to coat and cover the sides and top of the salmon.
Place the dill over the top of the fish. Wrap the plastic wrap around the fish tightly, leaving one end side open for drainage.
Place the wrapped salmon fillet on a cooling rack-lined baking sheet and place in the refrigerator. The cooling rack will lift the salmon above the draining liquid. Place another baking sheet on top to lightly weigh the salmon down.
After 24 hours, flip the salmon to the opposite side. Wait another 24 hours before unwrapping. Discard the dill and rinse the salmon under cold water. Then submerge the entire fillet in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.
Remove the salmon from the water, pat dry, and slice thin to serve. Store unsliced portions of the fillet tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 pound gravlax.
The lovely people at Alaska Seafood are kind enough to send me some fish now and again. They certainly don’t supply me with an income, and they don’t force my hand in writing or tell me what to write. I get to do all that on my own. I like salmon. I like it cured. I also like it smoked, grilled, blackened, and raw. And I like it wild and full of life.