Homemade Lox (Cured Salmon)
Is there anything better than a fresh New York everything bagel with cream cheese & lox? Well, yeah. Duh. But isn't it one of life's most perfect simple pleasures?
I could eat my weight in what we often refer to as smoked salmon, which is actually cured, meaning that the fish is prepared via one of a number of methods that use salt, sugar, and a nitrate or nitrite to draw out moisture that would quickly cause spoilage, thereby giving your meat a longer shelf life. The science behind it is fascinating, but involves talking about bacteria, and you don't want to hear about that while you're drooling over lox.
There's evidence that humans have been curing proteins for thousands of years, dating back to times when harsh winters were often deadly and fresh, nutritious food wasn't guaranteed. It's a wonderful thing that our ancestors discovered how to cure - a plentiful brunch in a temperature-controlled room with a mimosa from my fridge just wouldn't be the same without a complete disregard for the hardships of those who came before me.
The Seasoned Cynic's Homemade Lox
2 lb. center cut of fresh Atlantic salmon, skin on, pin bones removed
3 cups Kosher salt
3 cups granulated sugar
Soy sauce (regular, do not use that low sodium garbage *smacks you with newspaper*)
Zest of 1 lemon
Dried herbs and spices (I like the combination of dried dill, ground cumin, & garlic powder)
1. Gently rinse your salmon with cool water, then pat dry with a paper towel.
2. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the salt and sugar. Pour 1/3 into a deep, wide container, spread it out evenly, and lay your salmon on top. Set the rest of the sugar and salt mixture aside.
3. Coat the surface of the salmon with soy sauce. Don't go crazy here.
4. Drink a mimosa. Daydream about brunch tomorrow.
5. Sprinkle the salmon with lemon zest, then apply liberal layers of the dried spices and herbs you've decided to use. Again, don't go crazy - you still want to be able to see the fish!
6. Grab the sugar and salt you set aside, give it another good mix, then pour it on top of the salmon. Gently pat it around until you can't see the fish anymore.
7. Cover with a flat plate that is larger than the salmon but smaller than the container, then add something heavy on top, like several large canned goods, a couple six packs of beer, or your heart after a tragedy. Within reason, add as much weight as you can.
8. Chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Your lox should be perfect after 12-16 hours, but if your salmon is especially thick, it can be left to cure longer.
9. Gently rinse the sugar and salt from the salmon with cool water, then pat it dry. Use a long, sharp knife to shave off thin slices. Layer on top of a toasted bagel with lots of cream cheese, red onion, lemon juice, and fresh dill. Enjoy.