What Is Gravlax?
Often served as part of a smorgasbord, gravlax (gravlaks) is a Scandinavian delicacy of raw salmon cured in a simple combination of salt, sugar and fresh dill.
It’s very easy to make gravlax at home, but you do need to plan ahead because even though hands-on time is little more than 30 minutes, it takes a couple of days for the salmon to cure completely.
Gravlax is traditionally served as an appetizer with the mustard-dill sauce included in our recipe. Thin-sliced rounds of toasted pumpernickel bread are a nice accompaniment.
Buying Salmon To Make Gravlax
Because gravlax is made with raw salmon, you should use the freshest, best quality fish you can buy, preferably from a vendor that you know and trust. Sometimes fish of this quality will will be labeled “sushi-grade,” but that term does not have any official regulatory definition. It simply refers to the highest quality fish your vendor has to offer.
When purchasing salmon for this recipe, choose a fillet with a relatively uniform thickness of about 1 to 1-1/4 inches.
Gravlax with Creamy Mustard-Dill Sauce
- 2 to 2-1/2 lbs salmon fillet, skin on
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch chopped fresh dill, stems included – about 1 cup
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup sour cream, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- Lay the salmon skin side down on a flat surface and using light pressure, run your finger over the surface of the fillet to check for pin bones and remove any you find with a pair of tweezers.
- Cut the salmon crosswise into 2 equal pieces.
- Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl, then spread the mixture in a shallow baking pan.
- Press the skin side of both pieces of salmon firmly into the salt mixture to coat them, then lay them, skin side down on a sheet of plastic wrap.
- Evenly spread a generous crust of the salt-sugar mixture on top of each fillet and pat down gently.
- Spread the dill evenly over each piece of salmon, then place one piece on top of the other, skin sides out, creating a sandwich with the dill inside.
- Tightly wrap the salmon in the plastic wrap, then place it in a zip-top food storage bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator for 36 to 48 hours. It helps if you can flip the bag over twice a day for even curing.
Note: You may want to place the bag in a shallow dish to catch any leaks.
- As the salmon cures, it will give off some liquid and become firm to the touch. If you can see the end of the fillets through your wrapping, you will also notice that the fish darkens in color and develops a translucent sheen.
Once the salmon has cured:
- To make the sauce, stir the brown sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Whisk in the mustard and sour cream until smooth. Just before serving, stir in the fresh dill and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Unwrap the salmon, rinse off the curing mixture with cold water and pat dry.
- To slice, lay the gravlax, skin side down on a flat surface. Starting at the thickest end, place your knife at a 45° angle and cut very thin slices, down to, but not through the skin.
- Keeping your knife on an angle, separate the slices from the skin as you work. Arrange the salmon on a serving plate, garnish with fresh sprigs of dill and serve with the sauce and thin-sliced pumpernickel toast.