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Homemade Lox at 1/4 the Cost

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I've been making homemade lox (technically gravlax, because I cure them only in salt and sugar, rather than curing them and cold smoking them like nova lox) for the last year or so and have really been enjoying the outcome. It's super easy to do, takes only 24-48 hours to cure, requires only a few ingredients, is really impressive with the guests, and best of all, costs 1/4 of what you'd spend on the same thing at the store!

I'm a California transplant from New York, and on the long list of delicious things that you can't get in California, including pizza, bagels, egg rolls and cold weather, is lox. In my opinion, ACME nova lox from Brooklyn, NY is the king of all things appetizing. I grew up with the kid who stands to inherit the 4th generation business and have eaten the stuff all of my life. The only problem is, you rarely see it out here in Cali, and back home in Port Washington, NY, at Let There Be Bagels, the best appetizing (aka "spread") store around, nova costs $40.00 a pound!

Even if you've managed to keep your job through these crazy economic times, that's still a lot of hooch for some uncooked fish. As with many things DIY, there's an alternate, cheaper method that I'll share with you, which, in my humble New York Jew opinion tastes just as good, if not better than the full price cold smoked specialty store bought stuff.

 
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ClareH128 days ago

What do you think about brining a turkey for thanksgiving - any suggestions?

sallysings4 years ago
A few questions - if I don't eat it right away, how long would it keep for? And should I keep the fish in one hunk and just slice off however much we want to eat?

Also, is the drained liquid good for anything? Fish sauce is basically pasteurized fish curing liquid, but that's a different kind of fish and all salt.

Great job, btw. I LOVE Lox.
I tried this and was deathly sick for days. The lox had this zingy flavor, I should have known better.

I think you bought old fish.

stop putting whole bottles of wine in it
The kids were pretty hyper that night, I needed something in it to help them sleep.
noahw (author)  sallysings4 years ago
I think that you could safely keep it in the fridge for a few days after it's cured (<3 or so).  After that it will start to get tough dry out, let alone funky, and I really don't take chances when it comes to fish.  I'd definitely store it as one big hunk, cutting off only what you need as you go, it will stay fresher this way I think.  If you've got a vacuum sealer, you could try to save it that way for longer periods of time...

I don't know what you could do with the fish liquid, surely there's something that it would be useful for...it's a salty, sugary syrup...

Thanks for the feedback!

Good luck & long live lox.
ClareH128 days ago

Oye vey. I'm so happy! I have a huge LI boulder on my pan in the fridge. I washed the boulder in the dishwasher. I'm not cheap but I have a hard time buying a little lox for $10. I finally figured out how to make the perfect hard boiled egg - my Dad comes from Germany and we grew up eating cannibals (unfortunately no more), I watched my grandma make head cheese in the kitchen, potato pancakes with sour cream or mushroom gravy, rouladen, "a pickle is a nickle" and so on. I made my dad chicken matzo ball soup the other day. Oh, the black bread, brown bread, rye bread, kaiser rolls and always a little butta. New York, New York. I don't get why everyone wants pastrami lean? Love your recipe and I'll let you know how everything turns out. PS) My husband is from the Dominican and I told him wait till you taste a real frankfurter - he knows what's good now!

mikecz2 months ago

So, living in Washington state and knowing there are 4 native species of West Coast salmon, I immediately wondered what the heck "Duart" salmon is. Uh, you're seriously raving about farmed Atlantic salmon? Have you even tried Alaska Copper River sockeye during the month (June) or so it is available every summer? Or, for that matter, any West Coast line-caught native wild salmon? They saw you coming when they talked you into $20.00/pound for farmed fish. I'm pretty sure even $7.99/pound fresh wild coho (or silver) salmon is superior. Try it!

But your method of preparing the fish looks and sounds great!

Kathysguy10 months ago
I believe sugar serves 2 purposes in this recipe: it is a tenderizer, and it is an anti-bacterial agent (like honey). I have some curing now (my first effort at this) so I don't know (yet) how much it impacts the taste.
jimbru1 year ago
Hi, if you want a more traditional "gravad lax" you should skip the lemon and add dill and some whole white pepper seeds to the salmon when you put it on the bed of salt/sugar and then more dill on top with the rest of the salt and sugar and then another piece of salmon on top of that ending with more salt/sugarmix and dill. The pieces should be with the skinside out of course.
The reason for curing it under pressure is that the resulting product will be more compact and be done quicker. More salt than sugar will result in a firmer meat which is easier to slice in very thin slices.

The process was orignially intended to preserve the fish and was more of a fermenting process where fish you couldn't consume before it went bad was actually buried in the ground with some salt strewn on the fish. Since 3-400 years the common practice is to mix salt and sugar and then stop the curing process after a few days(depending on the thickness of the fishmeat by rinsing off the salt/sugarmix.
It should be OK for a week in the fridge if it was made from fresh salmon but can be frozen for later use if you want. Sometimes you freeze it for at least 48 hours to kill any parasites in the fish meat(this shouldn't be an issue in farmed fish with strict quality control).

In Sweden we eat "gravad lax" with a sauce from mustard, sugar, salt, dill, vinegar and oil(rather rapeseed oil than olive oil). The sauce is called Hovmästarsås or Gravlaxssås if you want to google the recepie. :-)
t.rohner2 years ago
Good instructable.

I use a more elaborate curing brine.
Besides salt and sugar, i use lime juice, some cognac and the following fresh herbs. Parsley, dill, chervil, tarragon and some coarsly ground black pepper.

After 48 hours curing, i rinse it off and put it in a vacuum bag for 2 or 3 days in the fridge. This is to even out the salt concentration in the fish.
Then it's ready to be eaten as gravlax.

If i cold smoke it, i rinse it after curing, then i hang then into my smoker, let them dry for a couple of hours.
Then i give it smoke for 10-20 hours. I tried different woods and combinations. So far it like a beech and apple combination the most.

Another way to eat this treat:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Pizza-Salmone/

gpc222 years ago
I'm originally from Manhasset and hit up Let there be Bagels all the time.... sadly their Bagels themselves aren't too great anymore. But I recently moved down south to SC and was worrying about my Lox and came on here. Made it, and it worked out pretty well, not an exact taste, but decent. Also agree with the comment below to buy Wild Salmon -- farm raised is gross and lacks all of the Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that make salmon healthy anyway.

Then I went to Costco and saw they carry ACME -- so if you're lacking Lox, check out Costco first. It was only $14 for a 12oz pack. One of the better spots to grab Lox in NY is from Russ and Daughters who also gets supplied from the Smokehouse in Mamaroneck. You can buy it online from Russ and Daughters and get it shipped too!
walkie743 years ago
I just finished making my (very small) batch and man, that is TASTY! I used salt, sugar, pepper and paprika in mine. I only made 1/3 lb, and I'm trying to save it for New Year's--but this is gonna be tough! Thanks for the instructable!
rosewood5133 years ago
Hi, born and raised in Brooklyn NY (moved to Jersey) I know what you mean about lox, pizza and bagels.
I'll add Italian bread too. Must buy at Scottos on 23th Avw.
I want to make this so I can actually have some lox on my bagel instead of just a shmear.
Thanks
tentacle5 years ago
Buy wild salmon, framed salmon is a inferior product artificially colored, and contaminated that is decimating wild salmon stocks.
Read a bit more here

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/080212-salmon-lice.html
Wow, you can eat salmon that's been framed...
 Indeed you can, they don't just look mighty pretty there, hanging on your wall.
Yeah, and they would've gotten away with it if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!
Plasmana4 years ago
Lox... Haha, it reminds me of liquid oxygen from on of the james bond's films :P
Oderus4 years ago
He thought the messicans were bad, wait till he sees me with a filet knife and a bunch of dead fish
Oderus4 years ago
I gave this much thought; after a few hours of deep pondering I decided I would get the rock myself. Im not a chauvinist after all.
afraz5 years ago
Gravlax isgreat, IMHO superior to smoked lox. Delicate and juicy, great on a bagel, with some lemon and soy sauce, or in sushi. Having made it I will never go back to the storebought kind, and I too was once a NY Jew... I have been making my own for a few years, I do less steps and find it just as good: Mix equal parts salt and sugar, spread all over fish, leave out of fridge about 5 hours, then 24 in the fridge. No weights or other ingredients. Slice and enjoy!
mdeblasi1 afraz4 years ago
Afraz, As a New Jersey Italian, I feel there is nothing better in the universe than Jewish Deli Lox.  I live in Ohio now and all I seem to be able to find is smoked salmon.  Tisk tisk, not the same thing.
I thought I would make it myself, but could find no definitive recipe. One recipe had the salmon immersed in oil as it cured?!?  But to my point. . . When I eat lox I don't taste sugar.  Are  you really sure it should be there, is this what Russ and Daughter's would do?  
noahw (author)  mdeblasi14 years ago
The issue is that there are actually two different types of lox that we're talking about here.  The type I've made is technically called gravlox or gravlax, where the fish is coated in primarily salt and sugar (common to just about any curing process) and then pressed under a weight.  The water goes out, the flavor goes in, and presto, you've got delicious gravlax in a few days. 

The other type of lox that I think you are referring to is called Nova, which refers to a particular kind of lox, like the kind commonly found in a jewish deli.  Nova as you might imagine originated from Nova Scotia, and refers to a process where the salmon is more mildly cured, and then cold-smoked.  I don't know much about Russ and Daughter's to be honest, but that's how ACME smoked fish does it, and they're pretty much the authority on Nova in NYC.

The gravlax don't come out tasting sweet at all, the sugar is really there to draw the water out of the fish rather than to impart a flavor.  As a middle class NY Jew, I grew up eating Nova pretty regularly.  As I wrote in the Instructable, when I moved out to California, there really was no decent place I could get lox anymore.  The gravlax recipe isn't exactly like Nova, but because it's cheap, and fresh, and you make it yourself, I think it actually tastes better overall and has always scratched the lox itch.  Give it a shot and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised and how much it reminds you of the food experience that you're missing.
mdeblasi1 noahw4 years ago
Thanks for taking the time Noah,
I really appreciate it.
M
afraz mdeblasi14 years ago
mdeblasi, i cant confirm the sugar is critical for the curing process, i think it may just be to offset the salty taste. You are not going to taste sugar or salt on the fish, they are both washed off. BTW you should use kosher salt. Try it, you will not be sorry. The source is a scandanavian graavlax recipe.
SoapyHollow5 years ago
This looks so amazing. For the record, if you think finding lox in Cali is rough, try finding anything in rural Texas. Heh. Question: What purpose does the "pressing" serve?
You think it's hard to find in texas. Try finding some in Britain. I didn't even know what it is until 42 seconds ago.
tabi5 years ago
Hello; Here in Cancun, Mexico it is very hard (impossible I should say) to find any good lox... so I have been doing it for a while, my recipe is pretty simple, Store bought salmon, the freshest the better, salt and sugar, equal parts enough to cover everything, I mix that with broken coriander seeds and allspice seeds. Wrap it up closed all over, weight an leave, turning every 24 hours, in the fridge, usually my family will pester me and we´ll eat it after four days but it is certainly better left seven days... I make a mix of capers, scallions and parsley w/olive oil and lemon juice... some mascarpone and bagels.. a truly international dish ;)
Lawst5 years ago
Louisiana has a a lot of good food but some things are hard to come by, fresh clam chowder and good NY food being 2 that come to mind right off the bat. I spent exactly 2 hours in NYC, not much time to do anything. I'd had lox before but wanted to have it THERE. So I hailed a cab, told him my situation, and he took me to a deli. I have no idea where it was but it was Delicious! I'll definitely have to give this a try
Jimbo Bob5 years ago
I had to sign up and comment on this recipe. It's fantastic! I can't believe how well this worked - I was a little skeptical. The amount of fluid that was drawn out of the fish was surprising I didn't expect so much. Next time I am going to add some smoked salt to add a little smoke flavour but in reality it doesn't need it.
deskbed5 years ago
this is awesome. I tried another method, actually cold smoking the fish, which though providing a good reason to have a fire in the back yard, yielded watery bitter salmon. This is much better. I used salt only as my parents have eliminated sugar, vinegar, and yeast from their diets. I bought the fish fresh at the grocery store on sale and froze it for 2 months, which ruptures the cell walls and makes the fish more salt-permeable (a real term?) and coated and wrapped it while it was still frozen. actually cured for 36 hours, much of which I believe, was spent defrosting. But it came out firm and delicious. props on the great instructable
Great Instructable! I used to make Nova lox for a living many years ago, and we used a dry brown sugar along with the salt, and we didn't weight the fish. Wild salmon is often much tastier than the farmed, but it varies greatly by species and where the fish was caught (Upriver chum salmon can be very pale and bland) I will definitely try this recipe at home.
Yendeg5 years ago
can any flavorings be add at the cure stage such a smoke flavor or liquid smoke?
I feel hungry looking at this. I could eat the picture!
caitlinsdad5 years ago
You can't beat this unless you have an endless cup of diner coffee to go with this and a nice fresh half-sour pickle. Maybe your buddy has connections to the Pickle Guys on Essex to get their secret.
definitly a socialite lunch right there.
Noshing is one of ife's pleasures, quite appetizing, next to high tea...
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