Dill And Salt-Cured Salmon

Salmon season is starting soon here in the PNW. This recipe combines our northwest time of year with a traditional Nordic dish. Salt-cured salmon is referred to as 'Gravlax' in the Northern regions. It's not uncommon to see it on many tables served as an appetizer, thinly sliced and accompanied by some sort of bread (Finnish Rieska recipe here) or boiled potatoes.

The word itself, 'gravlax', comes from the Scandinavian word grava ('to dig'; in the modern sense 'to cure (fish)'). During the middle ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. This is the modern, at home rendition.

1 ½ cup (450g) rock salt+ 

2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar 

1 ½ tablespoon water 

1 tablespoon white peppercorns 

1.5kg side salmon, trimmed and pin-boned++ 

1 bunch dill, chopped 

Brandy Dressing

⅓ cup (80ml) brandy 

1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar 

sea salt and cracked black pepper 

1 teaspoon store-bought grated horseradish 

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar 

Process the salt, sugar, water and peppercorns in short bursts in a food processor until just combined. Place the salmon on a tray, rub with the dill, then the salt mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, place a tray on top of the salmon, weigh down with a heavy object and refrigerate for 24 hours.

To make the brandy dressing, place the brandy, sugar, salt and pepper in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir through the horseradish and vinegar and cool slightly. Thinly slice the salmon, spoon over the dressing and serve with chunks of dark rye bread. Serves 12. 

+ The type of salt used for curing is important. You should use rock salt rather than a finer salt because its coarseness cures the meat without imparting too much saltiness. 
++ Ask your fishmonger to pin-bone the fish for you. Alternatively, run your fingers along the fish and remove any protruding bones with a set of tweezers. 
+++ The salmon will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe via Donna Hay