One word. Gravlax. I don’t think there are a ton of recipes these days with a one-word name, but Gravlax is one of them. Gravlax is something that a lot of people are either unfamiliar with or have a misconception of what it really is. My friend just gave me the last of his salmon from Alaska and I said, “I’ll just make gravlax and give some to you for sharing.” He replied, “No thanks… I’m not a big fan of lox.” It’s an easy mistake, but there’s the catch. Lox and gravlax, while both made of salmon, are made two different ways with two different flavors and two different textures.  

Traditional lox is simply done in a light, cold salt brine. That’s part of why it has that soft, delicate, slightly raw texture. For most folks turning away from lox, it’s usually that texture that does it. On the other hand, gravlax is a Scandinavian dish, and its origins go back to 14th Century Sweden. Anglers and the poor (often one in the same) worked together to create a preserving technique called gravad lax meaning “buried salmon” and hence the term gravlax. It was a crude, burying technique (grav means grave) that was known to effectively preserve the fish, but with a strong-smelling result. Okay, who are we kidding… it was stinky and not for the faint of heart. But culture is culture and what may be foul for one, may be sweet nectar of the Gods for another.  

Next Recipe: Bahian Seafood Stew

In any case, time went on and the dish was elevated on several levels (partial thanks to Norway) where the result was a longer preservation period, a more palatable taste, and far better smelling. There are quite a few interchangeable ingredients, but for the most part, a modern gravlax has salt, sugar, dill, and vodka. People use all types of spirits depending on the taste desired; my friend taught me this recipe when we were still teenagers and I know he always liked to use a single malt scotch. There are no real rules on herbs and spices either, so have at it. My tweaks are adding ground peppercorns, ground fennel seeds, and citrus zest (I like lemon and orange). The other variation is the curing duration. If you want something you can take on the road or just want something closer to a salty jerky, lean on the side of a longer cure. If you want something more delicate, cure it for the bare minimum. Personally, the higher the quality of salmon the less I let it cure. As far as preparation goes, the classic way is with some type of rye bread or cracker with a mustard sauce and fresh dill. That’s a great way to go but, this time around, I went with a classic breakfast bagel. Create your own spin on it… whatever pairs best for you is the way it should be served! 

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Recipe: Gravlax


  • Fish:
  • Salmon fillets - cleaned, trimmed, and patted dry with pin bones removed
  • Curing Mixture:
  • 1 cup kosher sea salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP fennel seeds - crushed with mortar & pestle
  • 1 TBSP black peppercorns - crushed with mortar & pestle
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 1 TBSP each of lemon & orange zest - more/less depending on salmon size
  • ½ cup of fresh dill - more/less depending on salmon size
  • Serving Suggestion:
  • Note* see other options above, but this is for a bagel preparation
  • Everything bagel - toasted
  • Cream cheese
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Capers
  • Fresh dill
  • Gravlax - thinly sliced on the bias


  1. Like always - clean, trim, and pat fish dry - be sure to remove pin bones.
  2. In a mortar & pestle, grind up the fennel seeds and peppercorns (or use an old coffee grinder).
  3. In a bowl, add the salt, sugar, fennel, peppercorn, vodka, dill, and citrus zest and mix thoroughly.
  4. For the container, I use a two-level tray with slots/drainage on top. Put several layers of saranwrap on the tray and spoon out an even layer covering enough surface area for all your salmon.
  5. Next lay your salmon (skin side down) on the paste and then spoon another layer evenly over the top of the salmon. Make sure the fish is covered.
  6. Lay more saranwrap over the top of the salmon and seal tightly. You want all parts of the fish touching the curing mix.
  7. To ensure that (and to both press the mixture in and squeeze the moisture out) add something very heavy, distributing even weight. I usually put a cookie tray on top of the fish and then a cast iron pan on top to that. Refrigerate.
  8. After 12 hours, release extra liquid, flip the fish over, cover and return it to the fridge.
  9. Note* In the beginning, I divide the salmon into thin and thick pieces, as the thin ones can be removed from the curing mixture earlier.
  10. After 24 hours, some of the thin pieces may be done. It should have a slightly darker color and the texture should compare to a well-done steak.
  11. After 48-72 hours the bigger pieces should be done. Mind you, if your salmon is going into the 20 pounds and up range, you may end up keeping the thicker “shoulders” in a little longer. Like I said… the texture of a well-done steak.
  12. Once done, rinse off all the curing mixture in cold water. You don’t want the actual salt still sticking to the fish. Wipe it dry with a paper towel and plate.
  13. Get the sharpest knife you have and cut thin slices on the bias, shaving the gravlax off just above the skin. Make it as suggested above, serve it the old school way on crispy rye with mustard, or create your own style!
Let’s just say, Adam Traubman could use a few more hours in each day. “Trout” can’t go more than 24 hours without fishing, surfing, paddling, diving, anything without getting the wiggles. So with a wife, three kids, two dogs, three snakes, an organic garden AND work... the man has his work c...