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September 2004 Issue
Alaska Speaks
by Philip R. Gantt
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Sockeye salmon, commonly called "reds" in Alaska, are the least oily of the various salmon species. This, because of the fact that they feed on plankton and krill in the ocean. Unlike other salmon, sockeye are not agressive and do not feed on other fish. However, sockeye have the highest level of health providing omega-3 fatty acids.

Gravlox is not cooked or smoked. Rather, it is a salt cured fish. The original recipe and term gravlox probably stems from Scandanavia. I prefer sockeye salmon for this recipe, but you can also use other types of salmon. Sockeye fillets are somewhat thinner than king salmon fillets, and therefore require less "soak time" than a thicker fillet.

Gravlox can be used in the same way as traditional cold smoked lox. However, as stated, gravlox requires no smoking or cooking.

  • 2 salmon fillets, about 2 to 3 lbs. each
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (coarse salt)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • sprigs of fresh dill, about 1 oz.
  • 3 Tbsp. vodka, rice vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground pepper
Place one fillet skin side down in a baking dish lined with plastic wrap. Rub half the salt and brown sugar over the top, add half the ground pepper, and top with whole sprigs of dill. Sprinkle the vodka, vinegar or lemon juice on top. Rub the remaining salt, sugar and pepper on the flesh side of the second fillet and use this fillet to cover the first fillet with the skin side up. Wrap the plastic firmly around the sandwiched fillets. Cover the wrapped fillets with a board or smaller pan, and weigh down with a brick or other heavy object. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours, turning the wrapped fillets at least once half way through the process.

After 24 hours have elapsed, remove and unwrap the fillets. Discard the dill and brush the salt and sugar off both fillets using a brush. Alternately, you can rinse the salt and sugar off with cold running water, but I advise against this as the water may impart bacteria to the fish that may cause it to spoil faster. Pat dry and slice very thinly at an angle using a sharp fillet knife, leaving the skin in tact. Serve and use as you would any other type of lox with crackers, bagels, cream cheese and other condiments.

Gravlox that is properly wrapped or vacuum sealed may be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or more.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes, plus curing time
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