Who doesn’t love a bagel laced with roasted garlic and topped off with a touch of cream cheese, lox and capers. I could eat it every day. True dat! But, one of the things that really bugs me is when people say they love smoked salmon on bagels but they really mean lox … and when restaurants advertise it as so. Lox is cured (or brined) salmon. It is not smoked salmon. And in all honesty, there’s nothing similar about the taste or texture. Still, there’s an awful lot of confusion out there do in part to mislabeling, but also simply because people don’t know the difference. Here’s what you need to know.
Lox, the thin slices of salmon used to top bagels, is a simple delicacy created from the belly of salmon, then brined or cured in a simple salt-sugar mixture. The texture is a touch spongy and buttery and it literally feels like it’s going to melt in your mouth. The flavor is distinctively salmon, a bit salty, and rich. Lox, when simply called “lox,” are not smoked and do not have any hints of smoke flavor whatsoever.
The term “lox” comes from the Yiddish word for salmon, “lax”
Gravlax is the Scandinavian version of lox. It is not smoked, but the brining typically includes dill, aquivant (a Nordic spirit), and pepper. And it’s my favorite of the group.
Smoked salmon is thicker and flakier than lox and it can be cold-smoked, or hot-smoked. Smoked salmon is what’s used to make smoked-salmon dip (duh!) and can be incorporated into salmon chowder. It’s a PNW gem and I ALWAYS serve it at holiday parties. Just place it on a serving dish with a block of cream cheese, capers, lemon wedges, and either crackers or crusty bread slices.
Hot-smoked fish is also called “kippered”
How to make homemade gravlax (and impress your friends when they ask, “did you make this yourself?” Why yes, yes I did 😉
Salmon, 3 lbs give or take (to each their own, but I suggest using Sockeye, Coho or even King)
1 ½ cups salt
¾ cups brown sugar
¼ cup aquivant (or vodka will do)
Fresh ground pepper
Lots and lots of fresh dill
To make the brine: combine salt, sugar and pepper in a bowl, set aside.
Spread out enough plastic wrap so you can completely cover and wrap the fish. Evenly place lots, and lots of dill on the plastic—you want it look like you just covered the plastic with grass sod. Brush fish with aquivant, and place into a baking dish or on a cookie sheet, flesh-side down. Rub one third of the brine into the skin. Transfer the fish, skin-side down, onto the dill-covered plastic. Spread remaining brine onto the flesh of the fish and put even more dill on top. Tightly wrap fish so all the air is removed. Place back in the baking dish (or on cookie sheet) and put some weight on it … anything … another plate, a couple of soup cans … you just want the weight to push any excess air out. Place in fridge and let stand for 3 days. Note, some people remove, rebaste with brine and rewrap everyday, but I just let it sit. After 3 days, remove, unwrap and you’re ready to serve.
And yes, it’s lovely on bagels, but it’s also fab on dark rye bread with capers, red onion and maybe a little mustard. Or try it with eggs. Super yum! If there’s any left, store in fridge for 5 days. Enjoy! Note, if you prefer a saltier style, increase salt and decrease sugar. Like it sweeter? Then (duh) increase sugar and decrease salt. Now go get your lox on 😉
A note about my recipes … most of what I cook isn’t a precise science. It’s look, taste and feel. And I encourage you to cook the same way. Add a little more of this, or a little less of that … and pay attention … and before long you’ll be a wiz at cooking seafood.
Coming up NEXT on the blog … a visit to one of Indy’s newest restaurants and damn-good, low-fat clam chowder. Want more from The Midwest Mermaid? Be sure to follow along here, and on Instagram for all the latest in seafood news and chews | @shaunanosler
DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox