Lox is a beautiful thing. Delicate salmon with a wonderful salty/slightly sweet flavor.
And it’s incredibly easy to make yourself. For bonus points, it’s also a great preservation technique. From what I understand, the lox will stay tasty when refrigerated for several weeks.
That’s simply urban legend around my house, as it’s never made it that long!
The pre-preservation preparation is the most difficult part. Start with a nice, firm, skin-on filet from a half of a salmon. Put the filet in your sink under running water. Using the back of a knife, scrape off the scales on the filet. Be sure to scrap the scales from the belly portion of the filet as well – I always seem to miss them there.
Once the filet is scaled, pat it dry with a paper towel and place is skin-side down on a flat surface. Get a pair of needle-nose pliers, and remove the pin bones from the filet. It’s a pain in the rear, but they must be removed before preservation. Run your fingertips along the flesh side of the filet, and remove all of the “hard stuff” – the bones – you feel.
When I make lox, I use three ingredients: Non-iodized salt, sugar (white or brown – your call) and maple syrup. For the syrup, I usually just use one of the major brands of pancake syrup, and not real maple syrup. Sue me!
For a single filet, use 1/2 cup each of the salt, sugar and syrup. Mix them all up into a slurry.
Take a pan or tray that’s at least 1 inch deep, and center a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom. You want it to be twice as long as the piece of fish, plus 6 inches (for the math challenged, if your filet is 12 inches long, make your foil at least 30″ long). Let the excess extend over the ends.
Now do the exact same thing with a piece of plastic wrap that you lay on top of the foil in the pan.
Place the fish onto the plastic wrapped tray, skin-side down. Slather your slurry all over the filet using your hands. The stuff will slip and slide, but will eventually hold on. Be sure to get the ends and sides as well.
Now, wrap the plastic wrap around the fish as tightly as possible. Once done, do the same with the aluminum foil. You now have a fish in a package, inside another package!
Take some sort of board (I use an old cutting board), place that on top of the wrapped fish and place some weight – cans or jars – on top of it. Place the whole contraption in the refrigerator.
Now’s the hard part – waiting. Once a day, flip over the package, and reapply the weights and put it back in the fridge. For a mild flavoring, let it sit for 3 days. Personally, I think 5 to 7 days is better. You get more of the maple flavor in the lox.
Once you take out the fish, you’ll notice a pretty disgusting looking liquid has oozed out of the packaging. This is normal. The salt and the weight on the fish have caused it to expel much of the liquid in the filet.
Unwrap your packages, and you’ll see quite a transformation in your filet. You’ll notice that the fish is much more dense due to the water removal, and it has a kind of crust on it. This is the salt and sugar that did not fully penetrate the fish.
Take the whole filet and rinse it off under the faucet. You’ll notice that the filet has a couple of distinct “regions” – the main center, and some much firmer – even tough – sections around the edges or where the thickness of the filet was much less than the center portion.
This is normal. I simply “butcher” the filet to provide myself with the different “cuts”.
DO NOT throw out the edges! I’ll normally cut them off of the skin, chop them up fine, and add them to cream cheese to make my own “shmeer” or add them to salads or scrambled eggs. The flavor always seems to be a bit more intense, so you don’t need as much as you do when using the awesome center-cut filet.
I’ll normally cut the center into 3 pieces – vacuum packing two, and devouring the third one almost immediately!
The “good stuff” is sliced paper-thin and eaten with crackers, put on top of bagels for a very special breakfast, or laid on top of scrambled eggs (I don’t put the good stuff directly into the eggs, although I guess you could do that as well).
This is an easy – and seriously cost saving – preservation technique. Have you looked at the price for a couple of ounces of lox?
I’ll likely be doing another one of these for Christmas. I need to time this right, otherwise I’ll eat it all before I get a chance to serve it!
**You may have heard of gravlax. It’s a Scandinavian version of lox. It’s the same idea, but with a twist. In addition to the salt, sugar and syrup, you add black pepper and dill – fresh dill is best. Finely chop up two heads of fresh dill, and add one tablespoon of freshly cracked black pepper. Add it to the other ingredients and follow the rest of the recipe.