People are always giving me things that they have caught or hunted or foraged and most of the time it is a heart or some other form of offal they don't want. Sometimes I get lucky and people give me things like morels, a few weeks ago I was given about 4 pounds of salmon that was caught over in Lake Michigan. This is the first time someone has given me salmon, truth be told I am not a big fan of salmon. It might be because I have never had really good quality, freshly caught salmon. Or it might be because I haven't prepared it correctly. Grilled, baked, fried or sauteed it doesn't seem to matter,salmon has always just been, OK, the only way I really enjoy salmon is raw, smoked or cured.
I have never been salmon fishing, either fresh water or salt water, so the only raw salmon I have eaten has been in restaurants. I really love smoked salmon and eat it from time to time, when I find it at the market. But my absolute favorite, is cured salmon or gravlax, salt cured and dried slightly I just love the texture and flavor of salmon done this way. I have always thought about trying to make it myself but I have never been salmon fishing so the only way I could have done it was to buy it, and salmon is far to expensive to buy fresh and possibly ruin. So when I was given some salmon a few weeks back I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.
Salmon are anadromous, meaning they live in fresh water and salt water, because of this they are susceptible parasites and it is recommended that they are never eaten raw. You can get around this by freezing your salmon. If your freezer is set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit leaving your fish in the freezer for 48 hours should be enough to kill any parasites in the meat. If your freezer is warmer than 0 Fahrenheit you might want to leave it in the freezer for 7-10 days before thawing it and eating it. Of course cooking your salmon will kill any parasites, so you don't have to worry about how long it has been frozen unless you plan on eating it raw or cured.
I always inspect my meat and fish thoroughly before I start to cook with it, if I see anything in the flesh that doesn't look normal I won't use it. Freezing and cooking are for the unseen things that may be lurking in the meat. Curing salmon adds a good amount of salt to the flesh of the fish and preserves the life of the meat. There are hundreds of different methods of curing but the most popular is probably gravlax. By adding salt and sugar and sometimes dill and lemon you can change the texture and flavor of salmon to something that is next to heavenly.
For my cured salmon I chose to make a beet cured salmon. I had never made this before but it looked amazing so I figured I better give it a try. The original recipe for this came out of the book Cured by Lindy Wildsmith It is a very simple recipe and doesn't require much active cooking time. Once the ingredients are mixed together and spread over the raw salmon it is just a waiting game until it is all ready. When it is finished it has a beautiful sweet earthy flavor from the beets and has taken on a wonderful sunset color. After making this I am planning on making a trip over to Lake Michigan to catch some salmon.
2 pound piece of salmon (previous frozenwith the skin on)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sea salt
2 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
5 tablespoons Aquavit
1 cup Dill (chopped including stalks and all)
2 pounds shredded beets
1. Shred the beets and add all the ingredients together minus the salmon
2. Place the salmon in a non reactive pan and cover with the beet mixture
3. Place in the refrigerator for one week stirring the mixture every other day to redistribute the mix
4. After one week remove the salmon from the beet mixture and pat dry with a paper towel
5. At this point the salmon is ready to eat but I like to dry mine for a few hours by placing it on a wooden rack and setting it outside for a few hours to dry.When it is done you can slice it thin and serve it with a bagel or any other way you see fit