Curing salmon is such an easy thing to do and the results really are delicious it would be a shame not to give it a go at least once.
Cured salmon is not something that is not readily available in the shops where I live, we have smoked salmon which, of course, is cured salmon which has then been cold smoked but curing your own salmon has a number of benefits which you cannot buy.
Using salt and sugar to cure salmon not only intensifies the natural flavour of the fish but also allows other flavours to be introduced.
It should be noted there is no need for adding nitrates to fish as you would with meat.
The process of curing removes moisture from the flesh of the salmon at the same time as pulling whatever flavours are in the cure into the skin. This allows for some big flavours to be incorporated and means you can make something truly delicious.
What Does Curing Salmon Do?
Curing fish such as salmon has been a method of preservation for a long time. What happens with a cure is that salt and usually sugar are used either dry or as a brine and this pulls moisture from the fish.
Curing preserves fish, extending the shelf life (or refrigerator life in our case). This is because by removing moisture we are removing a key resource for spoiling organisms or processes to occur.
Preserving The Salmon
Historically salt would have been used in very large amounts along with drying and the result would be fish that is preserved for years.
In our case, we are creating a cure with taste in mind rather than the longevity of the cured salmon. We are using less salt and focusing on making a really delicious piece of cured salmon, albeit one that lasts a week or two longer in the fridge than it usually would.
Flavour & Texture
Removing water from the salmon changes the texture. You’ll notice after just a day of curing the salmon will be significantly firmer.
When sliced thinly the texture in the mouth is melting and very pleasant.
The second thing is that the flavour and ingredients in the cure will be drawn into the salmon allowing great flavours to be added to the fish.
Making A Cure For Salmon
As mentioned previously, making your own cure will incorporate whatever flavours you add into the salmon. This opens up a large range of possible additions to a cure creating a unique flavoured cured salmon.
Along with the salt, I like to use a large portion of sugar in my cure and this sweet cure will really compliment the flavour of the salmon. The sugar works in a similar way to salt and draws moisture out of the fish.
This dry cure will draw a lot of water out of the salmon effectively creating a thick brine that will coat the fish.
Along with salt and sugar, we can now think about flavours and spices that you might want to add to the cure.
I like citrus peel, lemon or orange zest make a nice zingy and fresh addition. Herbs like dill are very traditional in Scandinavia, most people will refer to Salmon cured with dill as Gravlax.
In this recipe, I have incorporated Fennel tops into the cure as I have an abundance of fennel in my garden. The anise flavour can be combined with star anise and lemon zest for a really fresh tasting cure.
How Long Do You Need To Cure The Salmon For?
A cure like in this cured salmon recipe, you want to leave the salmon long enough for the cure to penetrate all the way through the fish.
For a thinner piece of salmon such as a fillet from the tail end, this could be 24 hours a thicker piece of around an inch or so will take around 2 – 3 days. Any longer than this is not really necessary.
Lemon & Fennel Cured Salmon Recipe
I have cured a half side of salmon which weighs roughly 500 grams. A whole side of salmon can easily be cured just by doubling the recipe.
Half a side of Salmon (approx. 500g)
- 125g Salt
- 190g Demerara Sugar
- Large bunch of Fennel Tops (herb of your choice)
- Zest of 2 Lemons
- 1 tsp Toasted Fennel Seeds
Chop the fennel herb finely and mix together all the ingredients for the cure mix thoroughly.
Take the salmon out of the fridge, remove any pin bones and ensure it is thoroughly dry by blotting with kitchen paper.
Find a non-reactive container about the same size as the salmon, glass or porcelain is good but plastic is fine. Add roughly a third of the cure mix to the bottom, and lay the salmon skin side down on top of the cure mix.
Sprinkle the rest of the cure mix over the top making sure the salmon is evenly covered in the cure.
Cover over with cling film and place a weight over the fish (a small baking tray with tins in is fine). This helps to push moisture out and evens out the fillet so it cures evenly.
Place the salmon back in the fridge to cure for at least 24 hours.
After 24 hours you will notice most of the cure will have dissolved creating a thick brine. I like to take the salmon out of the fridge and redistribute the ingredients and turn over the fish.
Leave the fish for 48 hours before removing from the fridge. Wash the salmon to remove the excess cure under running water. Blot off the excess moisture with a kitchen towel.
The cured salmon is ready to serve, the best way to serve is by slicing thinly. To do this either remove the skin with a knife and slice straight down into sections or by leaving the skin on and slicing at a 45-degree angle along the fillet.
How Long Will Cured Salmon Last?
If you are not serving straight away wrap the cured salmon up in cling film and leave in the fridge. The salmon will be good for at least a 2 weeks.
If you are keeping the cured salmon in the fridge you will notice moisture will continue to be drawn from the fridge. In this case, blot the fish with paper and re-wrap as necessary.