THINGS I LIKE: Lox

When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Sundays were family brunch times. In addition to the usual meat (ham, bacon, sausages) and eggs, we ate several kinds of cured and/or smoked fish; Sable, White, various types of Herring and, especially Lox, all purchased from what we called the "Appetizer" store. Lox, as opposed to smoked salmon, is cured but NOT smoked. It's name is derived from the Scandinavian word, "Gravlax" meaning, "grave salmon". This name comes from the medieval practice of "curing" (preserving) raw salmon by burying it in the sand above the ocean's high tide level, allowing the ocean's salt water to cure the fish. I still enjoy eating Lox but now I cure my own. How I do this is described below.

LOX  PREPARATION
The following recipe is for two similar, skin on sides of Salmon or Steelhead Trout ( I prefer the taste of Steelhead Trout). You can trim the fish to have two equal parts of the  thickest area of the sides for curing and keep the rest for fish cakes or smoking or use the sides, as is.

INGREDIENTS

CURING MIXTURE; 1 part Morton's Coarse Kosher salt/1.5 parts Demerara (raw) sugar. (I like the taste of the raw sugar with its slight molasses flavor, but plain granular sugar can be used. Further, I like the sweeter taste of this ratio of sugar  to salt but the ratios can be adjusted to suit your own taste.)

Black or green peppercorns, chopped dill or any other herbs/ spices that you may want to use to flavor the Lox can be added to the fish when you begin the curing process. A splash of vodka or other alcoholic beverage adds another nuanced flavor ro the final product, as well. I, however, prefer just the salt/sugar mixture.

PROCEDURE

Line a deep casserole dish with plastic wrap, one sheet lengthwise and a second sheet widthwise with a large amount of overhang.

Spread curing mixture evenly over plastic wrap. Place one side of fish, skin side down, on salt/sugar.  Spread another portion of curing mixture over fish flesh; heavier on the thick side of the filet. Herbs/spices can be added to this layer. Place second piece of fish, skin side up, over first and repeat addition of curing mixture.

Fold both sides of plastic wrap to completely enclose fish. Place weights, two bricks covered with heavy duty aluminum foil or 2 -3 cans of  food over, wrapped fish and place in refrigerator. Turn fish over and replace weights once a day for two days. On the third day unwrap fish, remove one side, rinse thoroughly with cold water, dry on paper towels and slice off a thin piece to taste. If seasoned enough to your taste, remove second side rinse and dry, as well. Fish will keep in refrigerator for 1 -2 weeks and will freeze, indefinitely. If the fish is not cured enough to your taste, it can be rewrapped and the curing process continued, with daily testing until desired flavor is achieved. Once you find the curing time that corresponds to your taste, you can use that for making future batches of Lox. 

Fish sides can be lightly cold smoked, if you choose. Take cured filet from refrigerator and place, skin side down, in a disposable aluminum container large enough to hold fish and a substantial amount of crushed or cubed ice.* Put ice in bottom of container, cover ice with plastic wrap and foil, put fish  on top and place in an already smoking smoker. Alder or Apple wood give nice flavor to fish. Smoke for 15 min at a time, tasting after each 15 min until you find the right amount of time to give you the smoke flavor that meets you taste. (Use that time for future smokings.)


*Replace ice, as needed, to keep fish cold during process.