Dont be put off curing your own salmon at home. It couldn’t be easier. This method requires little expertise and all the ingredients are very accessible. All you need is a little patience!
As with all charcuterie, whether it be curing your own bacon, sausages or fish, it is essential to ensure that you take the neccessary safety precuations during preparation. Always use clean utensils and work surfaces, creating a safe environment is critical.
Experiment with your cure. A basic cure will consist of just sugar and salt, using the measurements below. Just ensure that you use a good quality salt. We love the addition of beetroot in this recipe, it gives the fish an amazing, vibrant colour. The citrus flavours from the lemon and Cointreau provide real zest to the finished product.
There are plenty of ingredients you can add to a basic cure. Herbs such as dill or tarragon are perfect. Try Pernod,vermouth or even creme de cassis as alterntives to Cointreau.
Once cured, you can smoke your salmon if you wish. Cured, unsmoked salmon (commonly known as gravadlax in Scandinavia) is equally delicious.
1 whole side of salmon, deboned
2 fresh beetroots
50 ml Cointreau
Zest of 2 lemons
150 grams rock salt
100 grams light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
Peel and chop the beets. Blend the beets with the Cointreau and lemon in a food processor. Mix in the salt, sugar and black pepper.
Sprinkle half the mixture into a non reactive pan or baking dish large enough to hold the salmon. The fish will release a lot of liquid (forming a brine in which it cures), so your pan will need to be large enough. You need the brine to cover as much as the fish as possible. Put the salmon onto the cure mixture, skin side down. Then pour the rest of the cure over the top of the salmon. Cover tightly with cling film. Place a heavy weight on top of the salmon – try using a pan, or a few tins cans will do the job.
Place in the fridge for 24 hours.
Your salmon is cured. Now rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. The fish will be firm to touch, and by now turns an amazing purple colour from the beetroot cure. Wrap in parchment paper and leave in the fridge for a further 24 hours. This will help the fish form a pellicle, which in turn helps the fish absorb smoke easier if you wish to cold smoke it.
If you do decide to cold smoke your salmon, do so for a minumum of 8 hours, longer if you require a smokier flavour. Always ensure that when cold smoking, you do it overnight at a cool temperature and ensure that there is no heat being produced in your smoking chamber, otherwise they’ll be a risk of cooking the fish. We’ve used whisky oak for this recipe, but alder or apple are great alternatives. Once smoked, leave for at least 24 hours in the fridge so that the smoke flavour becomes less intense and settles.
Slicing your salmon may require a little practice. A very sharp knife is essential. Slice as thinly as possible, making an incision before gently carving towards the tail.
The salmon will keep for up to three weeks in the fridge. Vac pac it if you decide to freeze some. A fantastic use for leftovers is to make smoked salmon pate – just mix up the fish with some creme fraiche, pepper, dill and lemon juice in a food processor. You’ll have the makings of a perfect brunch!