Lox and bagels are a classic New York brunch dish that's now enjoyed around the world. But in general, the fish sitting atop the bagel is smoked salmon, not true lox, which is seasoned, salted, and dill-cured salmon rather than smoked. The method of preparing real lox is not dissimilar to preparing Gravad Lax, the Swedish salmon dish.
The curing process of lox is easier than smoking, and the result will be a sweet, tasty, and tender slice of salmon. Lox can be used in many dishes: sliced thickly and served alongside potatoes, dill and horseradish; on blini as canapés; or as the filling of a straightforward sandwich on rye.
For a tastier and fattier lox, use squeaky fresh fish, and the thick belly section of the fish, rather than the thinner tail end. If you have any doubts about the freshness of the fish you can get your hands on, buy a frozen piece or freeze it for 24 hours before curing it to ensure there are no parasites. If using a frozen piece of salmon, defrost thoroughly before starting the recipe.
- 4-pound salmon fillet (preferably the thick belly section)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons mixed black, white and red peppercorns (coarsely ground)
- 3 juniper berries
- 2 cups fresh dill (stalks removed, finely chopped)
- Optional: Chili pepper flakes
Gather the ingredients.
Cut the salmon fillet into two halves cutting across the piece.
In a bowl, mix the sugar, salt, peppercorns, chili (if using), juniper berries, and dill.
Place one half of the salmon, skin side down, onto a long sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the flesh of the salmon with the sugar, salt, and pepper mix. Place the second fillet flesh side down on top to create a "salmon sandwich". Wrap the fish pieces tightly in the plastic wrap.
Put the " salmon sandwich" into a shallow baking dish, making sure the fish stands higher than the sides of the pan. Place a baking tray on top of the salmon and weigh it down with any heavy object, like canned beans, rice bags, or heavy books (covered in plastic wrap to avoid passing on fish smells).
Put the fish into the refrigerator and leave it to cure for 3 to 4 days, turning the salmon twice a day or at least once every day. If there is any accumulated liquid, pour it out and change the plastic wrap.
When ready to serve, remove the wrap, pour away any liquid and wipe away most of the sugar, salt, and peppercorns, leaving a little on the edges for decoration. Slice as desired: thin for bagels, thick if it's meant to be a main course.
The lox will keep well in the refrigerator for five days. If you bought frozen salmon or froze it before curing, do not refreeze.
Spice-Up Your Lox
Add some kick to your lox:
- Add Alcohol: Vodka, gin, Pastis, or Pernod are delicious ingredients to add to your cure mix. One to 2 tablespoons will add a lovely back note of flavor.
- Enhance the Color: Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of raw, finely grated beetroot to the cure mix. It will turn the salmon a glorious pink-red color which is stunning on the plate.
- Change the Spice: Switch out the juniper for coriander seed, fennel (seed or fronds) or other spice you'd like.