Make Your Own Lox–super easy!

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.

Screenshot 2019-03-01 at 1.53.11 PMSmoked 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.

Screenshot 2019-03-01 at 1.45.26 PMSpread 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

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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

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Hey there. I’m Shauna—a West Coast transplant in the landlocked state of Indiana … when I moved here I missed the beaches, the mountains, the desert, the rivers … and it took me a while to find places nearby that paralleled my old stomping grounds. BUT. Now that I’ve lived here for over 15 years, I’ve had time to explore the region and you know what? It’s amazing. There’s so much to do—from skiing in northern Michigan to relaxing lakeside in southern Kentucky to rocking the nightlife in one of the many metropolitan areas. And I love it here. I really do. BUT. I do miss the sea … and the sand and the rush of the waves … the smell of seawater … even the sting of too much sun after a day spent lollygagging at the beach. And I miss the constant supply of seafood and shellfish and riverfish? About that … since I’ve moved to the Midwest I’ve noticed that a lot of people here don’t consider fish that come from the river seafood … I’m not sure I agree, but hence the new word I’ve created, “riverfish” … time will tell if Webster picks it up ; ) So my blog, Seafood is The New Black, is my way of bringing a little bit of sea life (or is it sealife?) to the Midwest. And over on Seafood in the Circle City, you can read up on my favorite Indianapolis restaurants that serve seafood, and serve it well. As you read along, you’ll find all kinds of information … some that you might find more useful than others—and some, you might just find amusing … or not. Either way, and if nothing else, I hope you leave my little space here on the world wide web a little refreshed and maybe even a little inspired to bring a little bit of the ocean home with you. (Yes, I did use the word “little” four times in one sentence … it’s OK … mermaids like to repeat themselves.) Cheers! The Midwest Mermaid Oh, and if your curious, yes, I do actually write for a living … if you want to know about the organizations I work with and the publications where you can find my land legs, swim on over to the “Portfolio” tab … and thanks for visiting.

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