I’ve been to many delis and enjoyed lox on a bagel. It was never cheap until I figured out how to make my own. Here’s the ingredient list and the directions:
- 1 box of coarse Kosher salt
- A large bunch of fresh dill
- Salmon filets skinned
- 2 untreated and clean wooden boards larger than the salmon filet
- 2 c-clamps
- Place one of the boards on a countertop and sprinkle liberally with about a 1/4 -inch to a 1/2-inch of the kosher salt.
- Top the salt with sprigs of dill and lay the filet on top.
- Cover the top of the filet with more sprigs of dill and bury the filet with the remaining salt.
- Put the other board on top and attach the c-clamps to both sides of the board and tighten. You want the salt to be crushed into the filet.
- Stand the board up in a pan filled with about a ½ inch of vinegar. Some of the salt will run down the board into the vinegar and that’s okay. You don’t want the vinegar to be in contact with the salmon. The vinegar in the pan will offset some of the odors that will result as the salmon cures. The salt will slowly draw juices from the salmon and essentially chemically cook or cure it.
- After 24 hours release the c-clamps and gently brush the salt and dill from the salmon either with a pastry brush or the back of a knife.
- Slice the salmon thinly on a bias or 45-degree angle and serve either on a bagel or toast. Refrigerate and continue to enjoy up to 2 weeks.
2. Smoked salmon
Easily my all-time favorite way to eat salmon. There are two methods. Hot-smoking and cold-smoking.
Hot smoking is the easiest and fastest way to smoke salmon. It uses a smoker with a coal pan at the bottom with a water pan above it and a rack above for the salmon. Charcoal is typically in the coal pan with hunks of hardwood like hickory, oak or a fruit wood like apple or cherry wood. The wood chunks are usually about 1 to 2 inches thick and should be soaked in water before being laid on top of the hot coals. The process usually takes one to three hours depending on the size of the salmon pieces.
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Cold smoking involves the introduction of smoke into a confined space but there is no direct heat. This process requires constant smoke and can take 2 to 3 days. The result is a more flavorful smoked fish but it’s quite labor-intensive. I usually go the hot-smoked method.
A critical first step before smoking any fish is a brining process. This consists of dissolving 1 cup of Kosher salt in a gallon of water and soaking the fish chunks or filets in a glass bowl or ceramic crock for 3 to 6 hours depending on the size of the fish.
A pellicle is the result of allowing the brined fish to air-dry until a smooth, shiny surface results. This is another critical step before smoking.
I usually use a hot-smoking method and after 2 to 3 hours I’ll gently brush the fish with a slurry of brown sugar mixed with water. I like the sweetness this adds to the smoky, brined flavor of the fish. Sometimes I’ll use maple syrup in the same way.
Storing smoked fish
I keep my smoked fish refrigerated and usually wrapped in plastic wrap. I’ve also sealed the smoked fish in plastic using a vacuum sealer and freeze it. Refrigerated, it will keep up to 4 weeks and frozen up to a year.
3. Pickled salmon
I love pickled herring, but now I’m a bigger fan of pickled salmon. The pickling process actually has a chemical cooking reaction similar to Ceviche. It’s the combination of the acetic acid in vinegar plus the citric acid of lemon juice that makes this happen. Other ingredients like salt, sugar and mustard seeds also provide preservative properties protecting the fish from microbial and fungal growth.
- 4 pounds of salmon skinned and cut into bite size chunks
- 1 cup of kosher salt for brining
- 1 gallon of water for brining + 1 gallon for debrining
- 1 cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 large lemon squeezed and sliced
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea-salt (not iodized)
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons of white sugar
- A mix of ½ teaspoons of mustard seed, coriander, peppercorns and other pickling spices of your choice
Brine the salmon with a cup of kosher salt and the gallon of water for 24 hours. Remove the salmon from the brine solution and soak in cold water for another 24 hours to remove the salt. This will firm up the fish for pickling. If you skip this step, you will have soft and mushy salmon. You might want to change out the water at least once to remove the remaining salt in the salmon.
Combine all of the other ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Wait until the mixture has thoroughly cooled and then add the salmon into a glass bowl or small ceramic crock with the cooled pickling mixture.
Let the salmon marinade in the pickling brine for 24 hours and serve. You also can pour the salmon chunks and pickling juice into canning jars and refrigerate and serve for up to 2 to 4 weeks.
4. Salmon salad
This is very similar to tuna salad only you use salmon instead. It’s the basic tuna salad recipe and is great as a sandwich or simply served on the side.
- 1 pound of salmon poached in water for 15 minutes and chopped
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 teaspoon of mustard
- ¼ cup of mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of capers (optional)
- Two slices of your favorite bread or a bowl
- Combine all of the ingredients in a glass bowl and blend together. Serve on your favorite sliced bread or eat it right out of the bowl. To preserve, you can refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.
5. Salmon patties
My kids love these, and I’ve got a freezer stocked with them. It’s essentially a salmon burger and they’re easy to heat in a skillet with a little butter or olive oil. I typically serve them on a bun with tartar sauce and some sliced vegetables like onions, tomatoes and lettuce on top. You also can top them with a slice of cheese.
- 2 pounds of poached and minced salmon
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of pepper
- ½ teaspoon of dill
- Combine all of the ingredients in a glass bowl and toss together until well mixed. Form into patties about the size of a hamburger and either freeze in plastic wrap or a zip-seal plastic bag, or heat in an oiled skillet for 4 minutes a side. Serve on a bun with your choice of toppings.
This seems so simple, but there are a couple of ways to approach it. The most obvious way is to vacuum seal the salmon fillets and freeze them. They’ll easily keep for up to six months using this technique.
A more rustic technique is to use a cardboard milk carton that’s wax-coated. You cut off the top of the carton and dump chunks or pieces of salmon into the cleaned and rinsed carton. You then fill it with water and freeze the entire carton in the freezer. This seals oxygen away from the fish, avoids freezer burn and will keep for years. Of course, this assumes your freezer is still operating but the flavor and texture of the fish will prevail as long as it stays frozen.
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