“It’s Apple Thyme!” Lox (Salt Cured Salmon)


This recipe can be used to make gravlax – salt cured lox – with a rich and autumny flavor. It will keep for several days. Or, you can take the extra step of cold smoking it, to produce nova lox, which will have a nuanced smokey flavor and will add a few more days to the shelf life. (Suggested to consume within a week.) All steps are provided here.

You can ask your fish person to put it on ice so it stays as cold as possible.
Remove all the bones. You may wish to use a tweezer.
Here are the essentials for the salt cure. We recommend using three apples. We used our 48-hour thyme-infused salt but any non-iodized salt will do.

This recipe is based on a salmon filet around or just under 1.25 lbs. Adjust the quantities depending on the size of your filet and your preferences (e.g. more or no sugar). We used wild sockeye but whichever salmon you choose, make sure it is fresh.

It may not appear very cheap per pound, but compared to the prices at a delicatessen, or the comparatively bland and inferior quality from the pre-packaged store brands, you will find this is luxury eating at a reasonable price.

    • 1.25 lb. salmon
    • 3 shredded apples, variety of your choice (the picture shows two of our CSA’s organic Fujis, but 3 will ensure an even coating)
    • 1/4 cup non-iodized salt
    • 2 TBSP sugar (I use raw, organic)
    • ½ TBSP peppercorns, crushed
    • 4-5 sprigs thyme, coarsely chopped (rinse well)
    • 1-2 sprigs dill, coarsely chopped (rinse well)
  • 2 TBSP vodka (we used Tito’s; use any vodka you like)
Optional add-ons (typically used in our recipe)
    • 10 juniper berries, lightly crushed; you may find them here on Amazon
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 nub ginger minced
    • 1/2 – 1 TBSP of Crown Royal Apple or other apple flavored liqueur
  • Thin layer of maple syrup (only if smoking)
The cure should be evenly distributed, and then gently pour the vodka throughout the salmon (flesh side up only)
All wrapped up and ready to cure
After the 36-hour cure

Items needed: Plastic wrap, large mixing bowl, shredder, an oven pan or other container to house the salmon during the refrigerator curing process; cheesecloth (to wrap the entire salmon) is recommended. For smoking you will need a smoker, or a gas grill can be used to house a cold smoking device.

    • Remove all the bones from the salmon with tweezers (or fingers), being careful to avoid damage to the salmon’s flesh.
    • Rinse the salmon and dry both sides thoroughly with paper towels.
    • Prepare all the salt cure ingredients, starting with shredding the apple, and working through the list, placing them in a large non-reactive bowl. Include all ingredients except the vodka. (The vodka is used at the end.) It may be helpful to use a mortar and pestle for the crushed ingredients like peppercorn and juniper. You may also add the optional add-on ingredients to the bowl. Combine and mix well.
    • The salt will begin to draw water from the apples. You may discard excess moisture from the cure with a strainer before placing the cure mix on the salmon.
    • Lay down a long sheet of plastic wrap, enough to cover both sides of the salmon. On top of the plastic wrap, place an equal sized piece of cheesecloth. (This step is optional but can helps evenly distribute the vodka and cure.)
    • Place half the salt cure mix down on the cheesecloth (or plastic wrap if you don’t use the cheesecloth) for the skin side to rest on, ensuring that the skin is thoroughly covered in the rub.
    • Gently and evenly pour the 2 TBSP vodka on the flesh side of the fish.
    • With the flesh side facing up, rub the remaining half of the salt cure mix on the fish, evenly distributing it.
    • Wrap the salmon with the cheesecloth. Follow up by tightly wrapping it in the plastic wrap underneath. To avoid spillage, add more sheets of plastic wrap and/or place in a Ziploc bag.
    • Place the salmon in the fridge in a glass oven dish, with sufficient weight added to the top to firmly press down on the fish. Flip the fish every 6-12 hours, a few times in total.
    • For a light cure, wait 24 hours. For medium (the method I choose), wait 36 hours. For heavy cure, wait up to 48 hours. This will be a salty cure so be sure you like a strong salt flavor.
  • Unwrap the salmon after the desired cure time. Rinse with water, removing all the salt cure. Pat dry with paper towels. If making gravlax, you can slice and eat for the next 3-5 days. (Discard if any signs of spoilage appear.)
After removing the cure, we brushed on about 1.5 TB of maple syrup, re-wrapped and smoked it the next day.

For smoking

    • Follow the above steps except for slicing the fish and then brush on a light layer of maple syrup, which complements the flavor of the smoke and can help further stop the curing process. Wrap it again in plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the fridge before smoking.
    • Whether you use a smoker or a gas grill (turned off, see below), make sure the lid stays closed once the wood chips are well lit.
    • Smoking should be cold. If you don’t have a smoker, you can purchase a stainless steel cold smoker box for $14.99 on Amazon, which can be placed in your gas grill. It needs wood pellets (this link is 20 pounds of highly rated applewood for $18.99 but there’s many options on Amazon and elsewhere, including smaller quantities for lower prices).
    • This is probably the easiest & fastest approach anyway. Place the salmon on a clean rack in the grill (so that both sides are exposed to smoke) with the smoker box burning for one hour; don’t turn on the grill!
    • If you use a regular smoker, it is recommended to place a layer of ice water in a baking pan, covering it with another pan, and placing a grated rack on top of that for the salmon to rest on. We used maplewood in a Primo smoker for one hour but you can use your preferred wood chip. The salmon was still cool to the touch when removed.
  • Slice and enjoy for about a week!

Fresh out of the smoker, still cold to the touch
Thinly slice with the sharpest knife you have!

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