Gravlax or Gravad Lax is an old Skandinavian method of curing a tightly packed piece of salmon. The traditional recipe demands only salt, sugar and dill, but there are plenty of variations that include other herbs and spices as well as alcohol.
To create a bit of a cross between gravlax and smoked salmon I had the idea of adding smoky whisky to the curing ingredients. I think the comparatively light-bodied and fresh character of Ardbeg is the perfect match for the salmon.
- 1 piece or 1 entire fillet of fresh salmon with its skin
Per 500 grams of salmon:
- 30 grams coarse sea salt without additives (kosher salt or fleur de sel if possible)
- 40 grams sugar
- enough sprigs of fresh dill to cover the salmon well
- A dram of Ardbeg 10 or Rollercoaster (I would not use sherried expressions like Uigedail, but any bourbon cask Ardbeg should be fine)
For the traditional mustard sauce (approx. per 500 grams of salmon):
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp liquid honey
- 3 tbsp sunflower or rapeseed oil
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp curing brine
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
- A dash of Ardbeg
Cut a piece of aluminium or plastic foil about four times the length of the piece of salmon. Place the salmon near one far side of the foil. Remove any protruding bones from the salmon with tweezers. Gently pour the whisky over the salmon and spread it gently. The amount needed depends on the size of the fish. It should be slightly moist but without creating puddles around it. Mix salt and sugar and spread on the salmon, then spread the dill evenly and rather dense on top.
Wrap the foil tightly around the salmon so you get a nice package. If needed wrap even more foil around the packagage. Place it in a lidded box and put it into the refrigerator for 36 to 72 hours. Turn around the package every 12 hours or so. I have heard mixed opinons on whether it is better to place an additional weight on top of the fish, but I think this it not necessary.
The time needed for curing greatly depends on the size and thickness of the salmon. If you don’t have much experience it’s a bit hit and miss. Fortunately it’s hard to really ruin it, but it takes some experience to hit the perfect spot. Actually this was the first time I ever tried to make gravlax. I had a 600 gram piece and left it in the fridge for 48 hours and it was already a bit on the dry side (but still pretty tasty). When opening the package it is best to be careful so you can re-wrap it if you need additional time.
After removing the foil, discard the dill and rinse to remove any excess salt on the surface of the salmon. To serve, cut thin slices at a shallow angle with a long and sharp knife.
For the sauce, just mix all ingredients and feel free to adjust the proportions according to your personal taste. The mustard is a good emulsifier, so you won’t have any blending problems with the oil.