February Preserving: Gravlax & Citrus Salt

I’m really enjoying the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge so far. We’ve already eaten most of last month’s marmalade. Turns out we really like marmalade. Who knew?

This month’s theme is salt preserves. I make kimchi regularly, and I’m pretty familiar with salt preserved lemons. I like the flavor of the lemons but I just don’t use them very often. I have a 1+ year old jar in my fridge that are super good in a Bloody Mary. I almost caved and made more anyway after I saw this huge list of recipes and the gorgeous preserved grapefruit. But I really wanted to make something that we’d eat and eat quickly, so I decided on gravlax and a batch of citrus salt.

What follows aren’t recipes or reviews, exactly. It’s more explanations of what I did, and reflections on what worked and what I might change.

My tablecloth ladies are thrilled by homemade gravlax for Valentine's Day brunch! #fijchallenge

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Gravlax

I love salmon and I’m always irritated that I don’t get enough when I order it in restaurants, so this was an easy pick. Also, Marisa suggested a Serious Eats recipe by Daniel Gritzer. I am all about a Serious Eats/Food in Jars crossover hit. I taunted a Norwegian friend into making some, too.

Gravlax really couldn’t be simpler. The major challenges I ran into were sourcing my ingredients and knowing when to stop the cure. The former was my fault. I picked Superbowl Sunday to go out and pick up my fish, and for some reason the bougie grocery store was out of dill. What football food demands a store’s entire stock of dill?

Once I finally got my salmon and dill, I followed the recipe pretty exactly. Exceptions: I used ground coriander and skipped the caraway because I’m not a huge fan of it. On the recommendation of a friend, I added a tablespoon of St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin on the second day of curing. I wanted to bring in a bit of caraway and rye flavor in a vehicle I do like (liquor). I also didn’t have plastic wrap on hand, so I filled a gallon bag with water, put it inside another bag, and used that to seal the fish. This classic pickle fermentation strategy worked fine.

I'm coming for you @mindytyrone. #fijchallenge (it's gravlax, mom)

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On day 2 I started obsessively reading and re-reading the comments on Gritzer’s recipe because the fish was releasing a lot of moisture. It wasn’t my water seal contraption leaking. I found a few other recipes indicating that this was normal. I figured adding the gin couldn’t hurt, but I was worried about it tasting like ethanol.

As I read the comments, I noticed a couple people reporting their final product was inedibly salty. I like the firmer texture of a longer cure, but I decided to pull mine out and test it for salt and ethanol flavor around hour 54 (2 1/2 days). I am VERY glad I did. The alcohol content was fine, no ethanol burn and a very pleasant light rye flavor. I probably could have doubled it. But the fish was at the upper edge of my salt tolerance. As a result, I didn’t make the savory mustard sauce (though my Norwegian buddy says Gritzer is insane and it’s supposed to be sweet to balance the saltiness of the fish). We ate our gravlax on bagels with cream cheese instead, which made the salt level jut about perfect.

If I were to make this again, which I definitely intend to, I’d heighten the sugar ratio in the dry rub, add more alcohol earlier in the process, and start checking the flavor at 36 hours. I’d like to be able to try the mustard sauce and other preparations.

Garlic, Rosemary, and Meyer Lemon Salt

We planned to spend President’s Day weekend with some friends, up north in Humboldt County at an insanely gorgeous rental in the redwoods. I made citrus salt for use on the steaks we hoped to grill. It rained the whole time and we ended up using the salt on potatoes. Whoops.

I followed Marisa‘s small batch citrus salt instructions but used rosemary (no idea how much), more garlic, and only 1 1/2 lemons of zest. I figured a super lemony salt would be strange on steak. But I was wrong! I wish I’d added more, you can barely taste the citrus through the garlic. Live and learn. Pretty good on eggs this morning, though.

Next month is jellies and shrubs! I’ve never made a jelly, so this will be fun. And maybe I’ll even change my table cloth!

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