Homemade Gravlax With Honey-Mustard Dill Sauce
Gravlax is a huge favorite of both mine and my husband. Honestly, I prefer to eat salmon like this or sashimi-style rather than cooked. The most common question I’ve heard about gravlax is how it is different from smoked salmon. Being a New Yorker (yes, even after living on the West Coast all these years I still consider myself one), it’s important to keep track of your salmon options. Gravlax refers to the traditional Scandinavian preparation of cured salmon. Like the real lox that bagel eaters often enjoy, gravlax is unsmoked. It is typically cured with a mixture including sugar, salt, spices, and dill. (Lox is very similar but with different spices.)
Because gravlax and lox are never cooked or smoked, they have a silky texture and translucency. Smoked salmon is a generic term. It can be made from any part of the fish, and it starts with salt curing or brining. The salmon can be covered in spices or a dry rub after curing, then smoked in one of two ways: either (1) cold-smoked where the salmon does not get cooked and is very similar to lox, or (2) hot smoked where the salmon is smoked with heat the same way meat is.
During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen who salted salmon and buried it in sand to cure it. This explains the word “gravlax” itself, which is rooted in Scandinavian words “gräva” (which means “to dig”) and “lax” (which means “salmon”). A similar concept is employed today: to make gravlax, one buries the salmon in a dry rub of salt, sugar, and dill, and cures it for a few days. During this time, the salmon cures by osmosis. The moisture is wicked out of the fish flesh and the dry rub turns into a concentrated brine.
Gravlax is typically served in Nordic countries thinly sliced as an appetizer. My family and I will be traveling to Sweden soon and I can not wait to try the delicious varieties that await us in Stockholm. In my family, we eat gravlax on a baguette or pumpernickel bread with a sweet-tangy honey mustard dill sauce that my husband grew up eating. Gravlax is not difficult to make, but it takes time and patience. I like to cure mine for 3 days to get the perfect sweet melt-in-your-mouth flavor I love. This is a great appetizer to make for parties, especially because you do almost all of the work well in advance. Summer is the perfect time for tackling more involved cooking projects like this and if you are a big salmon fan like I am, you’ll be very glad you did.