{diy project} Homemade Gravlax

I know.. I know.. I said I didn’t like fish.   What I wasn’t really clear on is that I didn’t like cooked fish.  I actually learned to enjoy lox while I worked at (the now closed) Bagel Bite.  And I do still enjoy lox once in a while but have never made it at home.

Although the terms “lox” and “gravlax” are used pretty much interchangeably, gravlax is not smoked, but instead is cured in salt.  Since my second hand smoker is still convalescing until I can give it a little TLC, gravlax seemed like the better route to go.

The  history of gravlax is actually kind of interesting since it was a way to preserve fish during the Middle Ages.  Fisherman would salt and bury the fish where it would cure and slightly ferment.  According to Wikipedia : “The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means “grave” (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish), and lax (or laks), which means “salmon”, thus gravlax means “buried salmon”.”

I can’t really bury anything in the backyard, but I could certainly shove some salmon in the back of the fridge for a few days.

After a bit of research, I learned that everyone has a different take on gravlax, so after consulting Ruhlman’s Charcuterie and this amazing article by Mark Bittman I combined their methods, used their salt to sugar ratios and took the plunge.

I decided I definitely wanted some kind of alcohol, and it seemed that aquavit was “traditional”.  I’ve never had aquavit but I knew it was  flavored with caraway and I had caraway seeds in my pantry.  So I made my own.  I have no idea if it tastes like aquavit, so let’s go ahead and call it mock-quavit, okay? Good.



Step One: Make your Mock-Quavit


  • 1 cup of plain vodka
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, slightly cracked with the flat of your knife
  • zest of one lemon
  • a few fennel fronds (optional. I just happened to have fennel in the fridge)

Combine and let steep in a non-reactive container for 3-4 days.
Strain and resist the urge to make cocktails.   Well.. go ahead but save at least 2 Tablespoons for your gravlax.

Step Two: Bury your fish


  • 2 -3 lbs salmon fillet,skin on, pin bones removed
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 large bunch of dill, stems torn off
  • 2 tablespoons Mock-quavit

NOTES: Keep your fish as cold as possible by waiting until the last minute to remove it from the fridge. Make sure you hands and your surfaces are very clean.  You are working with raw fish here and although you are curing it, you don’t want to take any chances.


Mix your salt and sugar together.

If you are using a large fillet of salmon, you may want to cut it into two pieces. The thinner edge will need less time in the cure.

Prepare your work surface by laying out a sheet of plastic wrap to work on and place your fish, skin side down on the plastic.

Drizzle the mock-quavit over the fish.

Sprinkle about half of the salt and sugar mix over the fish. Layer on the fresh dill and sprinkle on the rest of the salt and sugar. Be sure to cover all the fish.
Gravlax - burying the fish
Enclose the fish in the plastic wrap. Wrap another layer of plastic wrap around it, being careful not to fold or curl up your fish, then tuck it away in a ziplock bag. Actually, double bag that sucker because things are gonna get gooshy as the salt pulls the moisture out of the fish.
Pop the bag in the back of your fridge.

Step Three: Unearth the Gravlax

Every day, flip the bag over and give the fish a poke. Does it feel firmer? After about 3 days, it should be ready to come out. Of course, that will depend on how thick your fillet is. I should have taken the thinner end out of the cure after two days because it was almost too hard after three. When you feel it’s ready, take it out, give it a rinse in cool water and pat dry.


I cannot describe the flavor… sweet, salty, dilly, caraway..uh.. ish?  It really was fantastic. So different from lox with it’s smokey flavor, this gravlax had a layering of flavors that were such a surprise.


I need to apologize to you all for not having a fancy pretty picture of the gravlax on, say a bagel, with some cream cheese. Or perhaps on a blini with a dollop of sour cream.

See.. um..


I ate it all.

I just kept slicing and slicing and eating and eating and… before I knew it, all I had left was the skin.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. throve says:

    I love it when that happens. You keep eating until it is finished because it tastes so good. 🙂 Nothing shameful in that.
    I will give this a try with mackerel next time I go fishing.

    1. Jeni B says:

      It was sooooo goooood… I really just lost myself in it..

  2. I made some of this a couple years back. It was awesome and everyone loved it. Living in Seattle, I really should make this more often. Nice post?

    1. Jeni B says:

      What kind of seasonings did you use? I read so many different varieties.. I’m thinking of trying that middle eastern spiced variety.

      1. Mine were pretty basic – salt, sugar, pepper, dillweed – stuff like that. Sadly, my link to the recipe is completely missing. Very helpful. I imagine that you could use any spices that you would use if you cooked it. Salmon is easy that way. If you do it, let me know how it turns out. I am now craving bagels and lox – LOL!

  3. I had no idea this was so easy! Definitely going to try it soon.


  4. Dianna says:

    utterly thrilling. i have bought store made gravalox from Moby Rick’s fish store here in Saratoga but will try making it myself soon. Thank you for an inspiring post. And who needs pictures of bagels when you can have photos of salmon covered in salt and festooned with dill?

    1. Jeni B says:

      That salt/dill picture is really my favorite. It makes me thinking of a forest and fluffy snow! I hope you enjoy your gravlax adventure!

  5. Weatherly says:

    I grew up working in the family deli and lox usually means belly lox which is crazy salty. Nova lox is the lox most people are familiar with. I would love to make it also but haven’t yet figured out how to get our smoker to cold smoke. I think I need to do it in the winter. If you smoke it with heat you get what we called kippered salmon, delicious, but definitely a cooked salmon.

    1. Jeni B says:

      Thank you for that clarification. When I was working at the deli, I would get asked “is this Nova?” and I was all .. “um.. I don’t know.. would you like to try a slice?”

      Regarding cold smoking, although I’ve not tried it myself, the folks over at the SmokingMeatForums.com recommend this pellet smoker for cold smoking.


      Seems pretty affordable and I’ve toyed with the idea of picking it up for bacon.

  6. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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