Cured Salmon at Home

by Edwan S. Photography Ryan G. on Thu, February 05, 2015

Cured (or smoked) salmon is often seen as a luxury. Which is fine, because you can actually make this silky, briny-sweet treat in your own kitchen. In fact, you won't even have to turn on a stove. Chef Eddie shows you how to make a lovely cured salmon.

Silky smooth, briny-sweet salmon.

Slices of briny-sweet cured salmon are a decadent treat, whether piled high on a bagel, or when tossed in a lou sang for Chinese New Year. But cured (or smoked) salmon is usually prohibitively expensive in the supermarkets. You can make delicious cured salmon in the comfort of your own kitchen. No frills, no special equipment. Just a good piece of salmon and some good ingredients plus a little time is all you need. I'm going to show you how.

But why would you bother making this on your own? I'll tell you: a pack of cured salmon runs about RM12 - RM15 for a regular pack of, I don't know, 6 slices? And some brands go to way beyond what regular folk like me feel comfortable paying for. And for the same amount of slices! So I thought, well, I might as well make this myself. Total cost for making a good batch of cured salmon at home? About RM30. Nice huh? And it'll be loads more cured salmon that what you might buy in the shops. Even better, you can customize the flavours to suit your palate.

Here are the ingredients:

That really is all you need. But let's just list this down:

- about a 300g piece of salmon
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup salt (preferably sea salt, or coarse salt)
- Some dill, chopped
- Zest of a lemon

I chose a piece of salmon near the tail so it'd be easier to slice post-curing. Brown sugar has a nice, caramel-flavour to it that goes well with the fatty salmon. I use sea or coarse salt as well because it doesn't dissolve too fast and make the salmon too salty. As for the dill, that's a traditional herb to use when curing salmon but you can use what you like such as tarragon or thyme. The lemon zest adds freshness and a bit of a tang to the cure.

Now curing is basically a preservation method whereby most of the moisture is drawn out of the piece of food in order to inhibit bacterial growth and extend shelf life. When kept well, cured salmon can keep for a month in the fridge, or about 2-3 months in the freezer. Science lesson over, let's get curing.

First thoroughly mix the sugar and salt together. Then chop up the dill and grate the lemon zest into it.

Give it a good stir so the flavours are well distributed.

So half the technique is done at this point. Now place the beautiful piece of fish on a sheet of aluminium foil. You can use plastic wrap too if you wish.

Notice how bright orange the meat is? Take note of that, I'll show you what happens later. Now poke the meat with a fork. This allows for better flavour absorption when the curing mixture is put on. Now just pour on the curing mixture.

... and pack it in real well. You want every single bit of flavour in that fish.

Once the salmon's all packed with the curing mix, wrap up the fish tightly in the foil..

Pack as tightly as you can then place it in a plate and leave it in the fridge for about 2 hours. For a small piece of fish like I'm using here, 2 hours should be just enough for the meat to cure and take on a change of texture and flavour. In the meantime, well take a nap or go watch a movie or something.



(2 hours later)

Well, time is up. Take out the wrapped salmon from the fridge. Notice how it's become gooey and there's liquid? That's all the excess moisture from the salmon that the curing mixture has drawn out. Now keep in mind that although longer curing creates a stronger flavoured salmon, it'll also turn the texture very dry or tough. Remember, about 2 hours max for a small piece. If you're curing a whole fish, then an overnight cure is appropriate.

You don't want to eat all that curing mixture so wash off the salmon under cold water, then pat the salmon dry. You'll end up with a beautiful piece of cured salmon, as below.

See how the colour has changed to a deep reddish orange? There's even a change of texture that has taken place. When it was raw, the salmon was flabby and soft. Now the flesh is firmer and a nice 'skin' has formed on it. All of that is FLAVOUR.

All you have to do now is slice.... and enjoy in your favourite recipes. I could eat this raw all day, but hey make a sandwich out of it, or fold into creamy scrambled eggs. And since this is Chinese New Year season, add generous slices to your lou sang!