Gravlax is the Norwegian name for cured salmon, also called graved salmon. Since I lived in the North of Germany for most of my life, I am very familiar with the Northern Cuisine where this recipe comes from.
The borders between what is today Germany and Denmark have been moved back and forth in history, just like it happened between Austria and Germany. So, sometimes it is hard to tell who came up with a recipe. In this case, though, it is clearly something the Wikings came up with. We just copied and enjoyed it!
Video: How to make Graved Salmon
The Name Gravlax
Gravlax or graved salmon (lax means salmon) got its name from the technic it was originally made for hundreds of years:
The freshly caught salmon was rubbed with a mix of salt, sugar, and herbs like dill and then buried in the sand of the beach (salmon in a grave). They then put weights on it and let it cure and ferment for days, sometimes weeks, or even months.
This process dehydrated the salmon and fermented it slightly. By that, the salmon would not perish and could be kept for winter or long travel i.e. by sea.
Today, the process is not much different. We just don’t bury it any longer and instead put it into the fridge. The fish doesn’t ferment there anymore but is cured and longer lasting than fresh fish. Original graved salmon is not smoked.
Chose the Right Salmon
Make sure you buy sustainable salmon by looking for the MSC label. Learn more about the MSC label here: The blue fish label | Marine Stewardship Council (msc.org)
It is best to have a salmon cut that is rather thick. If you buy a whole salmon, cut it half along the fishbones, then use the thinner parts for a dish like pasta in salmon sauce and use the thicker parts for the curing.
If possible, let your fishmonger remove the fishbones but still check for smaller bones by firmly moving your fingers over the open side of the salmon. If you discover small or even larger fishbones, use tweezers to slowly pull them out. It’s important to do it slowly so they don’t break and become difficult to reach.
Also, if you buy a whole salmon, you can cure it a bit differently: Just put one half of the salmon of the salt-herb rub with the scaled side, then add the rub on the top (the cut open side), place the second half of the salmon with the open side on top of the rub and with the scaled side facing up – basically like a sandwich. This way you won’t need two containers and they can cure in the same place.
How long before Graved Salmon perishes
You should not cure the salmon for too long because it will become quite dense and tough to cut and eat. Check your salmon after two days. If it is still too soft, give it more time (a day maybe) but make sure it doesn’t become too tough.
Once the salmon is as you want it, remove the salt-sugar-herb mixture and cut very thin slices or, if you prefer that, thicker slices. It will then be good in the fridge for about one week.
When you remove the rub, don’t wash the salmon!
My recipe is the very basic, traditional version. Today, we have more options for a curing rub. You can add some fresh lemon zest to the mixture. Some people add a bit of alcohol like Gin. You could also use brown sugar instead of white sugar.
Spices that you can add are mustard seeds, anise, pepper, fennel seeds … I will add an additional rub recipe at the end of this page!
German Occasions to Eat Graved Salmon
Typically, we eat graved salmon at brunch and also at parties. You can either find it on sliced baguettes or for self-serving with the sauce next to it. Especially New Year’s Eve parties usually are celebrated with salmon at the buffet.
Another occasion is, having graved salmon as a side for potato pancakes or with baked potatoes. It is then paired with some sour cream.
Graved Salmon is also often paired with a mix of fresh horseradish and whipped cream.
Here is another recipe that is made with Gravlax: Cream Puffs with savory filling
Pin Graved Salmon / Gravlax to Pinterest
Gravlax – Graved Salmon – Cured Salmon
- 800 g Salmon fresh, MSC label
- 40 g Salt
- 30 g Sugar
- 2-3 bunches Dill
- Wash and chop the dill.2-3 bunches Dill
- Mix the sugar and salt, then add the dill and mix well.40 g Salt, 30 g Sugar, 2-3 bunches Dill
- Wash the salmon and tab try with a paper towel.800 g Salmon
- Check for fishbones and remove them with twizzers.
- Cut away the very thin side of the salmon if there is one.
- Put half of the curing rub into the large container and lay the salmon on top of it, scaled side up.
- Use the remaining rub on the top (scaled) side of the fish.
- Put a smaller container (or board or rectangular plate) on top and place a heavy item on top.
- If possible, cover with beeswax cloth but it's not really necessary, just keeps the fish scent at bay.
- Cure for two days. You can turn the salmon after a day (optional).
- After two days, check if the salmon has become firmer and lost a good amount of liquid.
- Remove the herb-salt-sugar mix by brushing it off. Don't wash it!Cut very thin slices. Serve with sauce from next recipes.Tip: To make cutting the salmon easier, put it into the fridge without the rub for about 40 minutes. This will create a thin layer on top and makes cutting thin slices easier.
Dill Sauce for Graved Salmon / Gravlax
- 1 bunch Dill
- 3 tbsp Mustard, spicy recipe on this blog
- 3 tbsp Honey Mustard
- 4 tbsp Sugar or Honey
- 3 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
- 5 tbsp Sunflower Oil
- Wash the dill and cut the tips off the stems. Chop the tips and set aside.1 bunch Dill
- Mix the mustards with the sugar (honey) and vinegar, then slowly add the oil while whisking.3 tbsp Mustard, spicy, 3 tbsp Honey Mustard, 4 tbsp Sugar, 3 tbsp White Wine Vinegar, 5 tbsp Sunflower Oil
- Add the dill, mix in and serve with the graved salmon.
Honey Mustard Sauce for Gravlax – Graved Salmon
- 6 tbsp Honey
- 3 tbsp Old Style or Stone Ground Mustard
- some Lemon Juice just a bit!
- some Pepper, ground
- some Dill tips
- some of the fish liquid from the curing just a bit
- Chopp the dill tips and mix with all ingredients to create a sauce.Serve with the graved salmon.
Alternative Graved Salmon Rub Recipe
- 800 g Salmon
- 10 Peppercorns
- 10 Pimento Corns aka Allspice
- 10 Juniper Berries
- 4 tbsp Sea Salt
- 3 tbsp Sugar
- 2 handfull Dill fresh herb
- Chopp the dill, including the stems.
- Crush the pimento, pepper corns and juniper berries in a mortar or in a food processor.
- Mix all the ingredients and use curing rub on the salmon as described in the above recipe for graved salmon.