By Caleb John Clark, June, 2005
I searched through a lot of recipes before I found a few simple ones I liked. But I couldn’t find any recipes with pictures to help me see if I was doing it right, so I wanted to put up this primer to show and not just tell. My first batch was fantastic (and about 1/2 the price of deli-bought Lox) and my whole family not only loved it, but also lived to tell about it!
Ahhh, Lox! That salty, sumptuous, strong-scented, smoked salmon.
Or so I thought. Then I set out one day to make Lox at home- and the first thing I found out is that there are many types of Lox and tons of recipes that take from 5 minutes to literally hours and weeks.
But all Lox is not complex, especially Lox that is not smoked or uses alcohols. Here’s the skinny:
- Lox. Simplist and the one made here. Salmon, salt, maybe suger and pepper. Weighted down or not.
- Gravlax (aka Gravlox, or Gravdlax.) Like Lox, but with herbs like dill or tarragon and an alcohol like Brandy, Aquavit, Vodka, etc. Definitely weighted down.
- Nova Lox (aka Smoked Salmon.) Lox with a complex smoking procedure after.
All the recipes call for different measurements and ingredients, but there’s a underlying pattern to them all. Basically you’re going to put salt and some other stuff on fresh raw salmon and let it “brine” in the refrigerator for a few days while the salt “cooks” the fish and gives it that famous taste. It’s strange to think of eating raw fish that has been in the fridge for a week without cooking it, but salting food, especially meat and fish, goes way, way, way back as a preservative. Once you try this you’ll see why. It tastes great and it’s easy.
I looked at a lot of recipes and found I could vary the amount of salt and other ingredients to taste, as long as I remembered that you really just need the salt to do the ‘cooking’ trick with the raw fish.
I made my first batch for myself to see how it worked. Now I keep a batch around whenever I have the time.
Here’s what I ended up with as a recipe for myself.
- 1lb fresh thick salmon, sliced in two equal pieces. The best of course would be wild-caught Alaskan king salmon. You’re going to sandwich the two pieces together, skin side out, so try to get a piece that is consistent in size that you can cut in half, or have the fish folks slice two equal slices.
- 3-8 tablespoons Kosher flake salt.
- 3-8 tablespoons brown sugar (regular will do)
- 1-tablespoon coarse fresh ground pepper
1 Good quality zip-lock freezer baggie
- Flat-bottomed bowl
- Something to weigh down the salmon with (dish with a soup can in it, etc.)
- Optional: 1/4-cup fresh dill, vodka, gin, cognac. You can mix up about 2oz each of mint and parsley (flat leaf) with dill. Also, a subtle but very important spice is crushed star anise, using about two stars of it per pound of fish.
- Wash and pat dry the salmon and lay skin side down and:
- Sprinkle all the salt on, with more in thicker areas.Sprinkle pepper on top of salt. Use 4-8 tablespoons depending on your taste for salt.
- Sprinkle brown sugar on top of pepper.
- Put any optional ingredients on top, gently if it’s liquid so as not to remove salt from salmon.
- Sandwich the two salmon pieces together
- Put in zip lock bag, with as much air sucked out as possible.
- Put in flat-bottomed bowl (in case bag leaks.)
- Weigh it down (to help salt get into fish.)
- Put in bottom of fridge for 1-4 days. I did 4. I saw some recipes call for even longer.
- Flip salmon every day to mix juices up.
- Take out, gently rinse off salt mixture from salmon, pat dry.
- I then slice it against the grain of the salmon very thinly and taste a piece. If it’s too salty, I gently rinse the slices in cold water and pat dry. I like to slice it all at once because it’s a smelly job. Refrigerate, lasts for a week or less.
Chow down! My favorite way is on a fresh plain toasted bagel. I like plain bagels so as to be able to taste the salmon unfettered by flavor in the bagel. I use plain, or maybe chive, cream cheese, some capers, and a very few onions, and that’s it. Lox is also great in scrambled eggs with cream cheese added at the last minute, and on crackers.
- Wikipedia Encyclopedia Entry with Links.
- Nova Lox (cold smoked) recipe
- A totally insane tomb of a recipe!
Other recipes online: