Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Salty Lox (and more)

Also called "regular" or "belly" lox.

I have no idea why people don't make this all the time. Lox is delicious and utterly trivial to make. Plus you can't even find the old New York deli salty lox anywhere outside the city any more (and it can be hard to find it in the city). It has been mostly replaced with the milder Nova lox that has been pre-sliced and pre-packaged at the factory.

Here is the general procedure for making any kind of lox:
  • Take a cure, which is a mixture of salt and sugar and optionally some spices or herbs.
  • Cover the fully de-boned salmon fillet (including pin bones) and spread the cure over it. You need more cure on the flesh side than the skin side. The objective is to do this in a container that is right sized for the piece of fish, so that you can use less cure. I like heavy weight zip lock bags. On the other hand if you aren't doing production volumes of the stuff, the cure is pretty cheap.
  • Press the fish with a weight to aid the expression of juices. Some kind of flat plate or pan with some cans or water bottles in it works well. For this last batch I put two pieces of salmon in two plastic zip lock bags on top of each other into one loaf pan, then topped with another loaf pan with weights. Store the whole thing in the fridge. The dry cure will turn into a brine as it cures, but there should always be some undissolved cure so you know that your solution is saturated.
  • Periodically check the fish for done and redistribute or add cure as necessary. It is done when you press it and it doesn't feel squishy, but feels kind of "cooked". A few days is usually about right.
  • Rinse off the cure and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap in freezer paper and store in the fridge (or serve immediately).
  • Slice thinly on the bias to serve. This takes a sharp knife and some practice, but it isn't hard.
You can optionally cold smoke this for some styles of lox. The cure can be can be anywhere from 1/3 salt and 2/3 sugar to 2/3 salt and 1/3 sugar (by weight). Use any kind of salt, as long as you measure by weight, but I use kosher salt.

Salty lox is the ultra minimalist version. 2/3 salt and 1/3 sugar, no other spices, no smoking. It is done in about three days. Really easy. It is sort of a gateway to charcuterie (the next thing you should make is duck breast prosciutto, or maybe duck confit). My nephew called it "salmon bacon" - yup, that's about right. Yum.



dana said...

what happens if you just use salt (no sugar)? i would like to do this but i don't want all the sugar (even if you don't eat most of it).

David said...

I've been doing the all salt version for a while now, actually. It works fine. It is quite salty, but I'm not sure there is really a huge difference between that and the 1/3 sugar recipe.

dana said...

yeah, i was in the process of curing an all salt version when i first commented and you're right, it is super salty. do you know of good ways to lessen the saltiness or mask/complement it with other flavors?

dana said...

does this go bad? if so, when?

David said...

I'm sure it goes bad, but slowly. I've certainly eaten it two weeks out. But it is fish and I get nervous, so I try to use it up in that kind of timeframe.

Let your nose and eyes and fingers be your guide. Toss it if it smells, feels slimy, or has any visible mold.

dana said...

i mean, not to be gross, but is there any way the version i made in july is still good? I looked at it, and it seems totally fine; it smells and feels fine, and there's no mold. When I made it I kind of went overboard with the salting, every 12 hours I kept putting on the salt until no brine came out (cause all the water was out of the fish).

David said...

Well maybe if you made salted fish instead of lox. LOL

When you make the lox, you aren't trying to get all the water out. Go just until it is firm.

If it is quite dry it probably won't kill you. But salmon is high in oxidizable fats, so rancidity is the next concern.