This beet cured salmon is a simple twist on gravlax where the salmon takes on a beautiful purple hue on the one side. Yes, you have a little wait, but it's easy to make and the result is delicious and perfect for elegant appetizers.
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Seafood is something I have always loved, maybe partly coming from the coast. The kids are on board, to a point, but do have slightly differing tastes.
One will eat most fish, but is only just coming round to shrimp and lobster. The other is virtually the opposite. But thankfully they have a couple overlaps: sushi, calamari and salmon. I know, they are starting to sound spoiled which may be true.
Either way, this recipe is great for making people feel spoiled without quite as hefty a pricetag. And thankfully it's something we all agree on finding delicious.
Is the salmon cooked?
No, the salmon here is not cooked, but it's also not raw like sushi or in citrus like ceviche. Instead, you cure the salmon with a mixture of salt, sugar and some additional flavorings. Over a couple days, the mixture brings a lot of the moisture out of the fish and adds flavor. The result is delicately flavored with a texture similar to smoked salmon or lox.
This cured salmon is called gravlax or gravadlax and is a traditional dish in much of Scandinavia. I have made a non-beet version of salmon gravlax before which we love. But I also wanted to try this beet-cured version which adds a beautiful burst of color.
What's the difference between smoked salmon, lox and gravlax?
All are made from salmon and to a point, they can be used interchangeably as they have a similar texture and flavor. However there are some slight differences between each of them.
- Smoked salmon is cured or brined then smoked. In Scotland, it would always be a cold smoking but you can also find hot smoked salmon which has a texture closer to cooked salmon as a result.
- Lox is cured but not smoked. It is traditionally salt cured over a long period of time (three months) and can taste a little salty as a result.
- Gravlax is similar to gravlax in that it is cured but not smoked, but it's the ingredients that make it a little different. The cure is a mix of salt, sugar and dill, as well as some kind of alcohol, either aquavit or vodka.
Tips for making beet gravlax
This is really pretty easy to make, but here are a few tips to help you have success:
- Use good quality fish - I think it's pretty much always important to use good quality fish but here even more so. Remember, you are curing rather than cooking so its important the fish is from a source you trust and very fresh.
- Use fish of even thickness - try to use a middle piece of a salmon fillet so the fish is a relatively even thickness. If some parts are thinner, they will cure more than the thicker parts. Even thickness means even curing.
- Remove the skin, if you prefer - this works whether the skin is on or not. I quite like to leave it on as I find it helps to slice against. However, it does mean the cure penetrates less on the skin side. You can, alternatively, pierce the skin to help the cure penetrate. If you make it with the skin removed, it should cure a little quicker.
- Weigh down the fish after adding the cure - this is important to help it cure properly. The cure mixture both adds flavor and also draws out the moisture from the fish. Weighing down the fish helps to draw out the moisture. You can pour off the liquid as you go, if you like, but it also works to leave it until the end.
- Use a dish slightly larger than the fish - this gives you space for the liquid to come out without spilling over.
- Don't wash the cured fish - remember you just removed the moisture with the cure, you don't want to add more back in. A simple scrape with a knife and wipe down with some kitchen paper works perfectly well to remove the excess cure.
How long does this last?
Once the fish has cured enough, it's important to remove the fish from the cure mixture to stop it curing any further. Then, once you have dried off the fish, you can store it in a sealed container or well wrapped in cling wrap/film in the fridge for around 3 - 5 days. I prefer to slice the fish as I am going to use it to help avoid it drying out.
You can use this in much the same way as regular gravlax as well as smoked salmon. Try it on top of open sandwiches, on blini, in bagels or to top a seafood salad. It is pretty versatile, and you'll soon find any excuse to nibble on some.
In Sweden, you'll often find smoked salmon or gravlax as part of a festive spread (Julbord or Smorgasbord). Other dishes you might include in the spread include pickled herring, Swedish pressed cucumber salad (kind of quick pickles), Swedish meatballs and cheeses.
This beet cured salmon is easy to make and adds a wonderfully bright burst of color and flavor to any table. It has a lovely balance of lightly salty and a touch of sweet. The texture is close to smoked salmon but without the price tag to match. So get curing, and add it to your festive menu, or any excuse you find.
Try these other seafood appetizers:
- Baked mussels
- Oysters Kilpatrick (topped with bacon and a punchy sauce)
- Fish crudo (an easy, elegant raw dish with a light lemon-oil dressing)
- Plus get more appetizer recipes in the archives.
Beet cured salmon (beet gravlax)
- 1 lb salmon fillet skin off or on, as you prefer
- ¼ cup coarse sea salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest optional
- 2 tablespoon dill tough stems removed and finely chopped
- 1 cup coarsely grated beet (raw), 1 small beetroot
- If you have any doubt on the freshness/quality of your salmon, freeze it first then defrost it before making the gravlax to get rid of any bacteria. If it has been previously frozen or it is sushi grade, no need to do this.
- Trim any thin pieces from your salmon. They will likely over-cure and are best used in some other way fresh. Carefully check to see if there are any bones and remove.
- Mix together the cure of salt, sugar, pepper and lemon zest in a small bowl. Separately, mix the dill into the coarsely grated raw beet.
- Place a little under half of the beet mixture in a dish just slightly larger than the piece of salmon. Then sprinkle over a little less than half the salt-sugar mixture. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top. Sprinkle over the rest of the salt-sugar mixture evenly on top and then the rest of the beet mixture. Spread evenly.
- Cover the fish with plastic wrap/cling film and then top with a plate or other dish, weighed down with for example a couple cans/tins. Place in the fridge and leave it to cure for 2 days until the salmon feels slightly firm and looks a little more opaque.
- Drain off the liquid that has accumulated and remove the salmon from the dish. Scrape off the beet and any excess cure (some stray dill is fine) and pat the fish dry. Slice the salmon thinly across the grain, removing any skin, and serve.
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