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thanks a lox

Recipe: homemade salmon lox

It’s my favorite month, you know… birthdays, autumn colors, potential snow storms, fleece weather. A three-day weekend saw August off and welcomed September with sweaty open arms. It always gets hot in early September which merely increases my anticipation of the first frost in the mountains. For the most part, we remained at home and worked through the holiday weekend to avoid the throngs of people flooding into the mountains. Except we did venture down to Denver at the last minute to score a great deal on some season passes for Crested Butte this winter.


Granted, it is technically summer until September 22nd and I accept this. If summer didn’t have such a bounty of wonderful foods, I’d be a lot less tolerant of the heat. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon graces my fishmonger’s display these days. It’s downright distracting when I’m swinging by to pick up some scallops or shrimp and then these jewel-colored filets or steaks draw my attention to the “sale” sign. Sometimes, I can’t help myself.

salmon, dill, tarragon, bay leaves, shallots, black pepper, green peppercorns, vodka, kosher salt, sugar

I’ve been wanting to cure my own lox for several years now. I’m not sure if I should be happy about finally getting around to doing it or if I should be sad that it took me this long. Part of the problem is that I wanted to use wild salmon rather than farmed salmon. Farmed salmon is available year-round while wild salmon is seasonal. Summers kept slipping past me before I remembered to make lox, and farmed salmon doesn’t really appeal to me these days.

the filet will have pin bones

remove those with some (clean) pliers

What I love about making lox is how easy it is. Aside from finding space in my refrigerator, it was just a bit of chopping, mixing, smothering, and wrapping. Most of the work doesn’t involve you at all.

mix the sugar and salt together

chop the dill

slice shallots

mix the herbs and spices and aromatics together

Is the vodka necessary? No. I’ve seen plenty of basic recipes that don’t call for vodka, so you can skip that if you must. But if you can leave it in, I recommend it. Same goes for the herbs, spices, and aromatics. Basic recipes are mostly salt and sugar. This one has a lot of complex flavors working with the salmon, and it’s wonderful. Tasting it made me realize how dull the store-bought lox is by comparison.

sprinkle the vodka on the salmon

pour the salt and sugar over the fish

the mix of herbs, spices, and aromatics

layer the final mixture over the filet

Wrap the fish in plastic as it performs two tasks: 1) it keeps the fish from drying out in your refrigerator and 2) it holds all of the cure and goodies in place on the filet. Do leave one end a little loose or a tiny corner unopened so that liquid can drain away from the fish. This is why you want to place the wrapped fish in a baking dish or a high-sided plate, otherwise you might have a mess to clean up in the refrigerator. If you can weigh it all down with a smaller baking dish or something heavy, that’s even better. I used three ears of corn. Place the salmon in the refrigerator for two days. Every 12 hours or so, I would find liquid accumulated in the pan and drain it off in the sink. No biggie.

wrapped up

after two days of being squashed by ears of corn

When you unwrap the filet and scrape the cure off, you will find the flesh is harder. That’s okay. That’s actually good, because it makes it easier to slice thin. Give the filet a brief rinse under cold water to remove any remaining cure. Pat it dry and then slice on a bias.

gently scrape the cure off

rinse and pat dry

slice on an angle

The transformation is impressive. Not only is the texture firm and dense, but all of the subtle flavors are competing for attention like the cast of a high school musical. The dill stands out the most, but it is mellowed by hints of vodka. All of this riding on a fresh salmon taste and aroma. So if you like lox, now is the time to make your own while the wild salmon is available.

a good summer cure

Homemade Salmon Lox
[print recipe]
from SippitySup

2 lbs. salmon filet (preferably wild), pin bones removed
2 tbsps vodka
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 fresh bay leaves, chopped
2 bunches fresh dill, minced (stems and all)
3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp black pepper, freshly cracked
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 tbsp green peppercorns

Place the salmon skin-side down on plastic wrap in a large baking pan or dish. Sprinkle vodka over the salmon. Mix the salt and sugar together and cover the fish with the mixture. Mix the bay leaves, dill, shallots, black pepper, tarragon, and green peppercorns together in a medium bowl. Layer it over the salt mixture. Wrap the fish tightly in the plastic (use another sheet if you need to). Place something heavy on top of the fish like a heavy plate or baking dish (I used 3 ears of corn). Refrigerate the salmon for 48 hours. Check the fish every 12 hours or so and drain off any excess liquid. When the salmon is ready, unwrap it and remove the cure (the herbs and salt mix). Rinse the fish in cold water and pat it dry. Slice thin against the grain. Makes 2 pounds.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

salmon cakes blackened salmon sandwich teriyaki salmon collar or fillet grilled salmon panang

24 nibbles at “thanks a lox”

  1. Kumar's Kitchen says:


  2. Lilly says:

    Your recipe and instructions are good and accurate. For the record, this is really more akin to Scandinavian Gravlax rather than NY deli type “lox”. It can be left in the curing mixture for an additional day if you like.
    In any case this is quite easy to do, the results are delicious and far less expensive than what you can buy.
    Highly recommended

  3. Kristin says:

    I will join you in your love of September, except for the possibility of snow! Both of my kids were born in September, so that makes it special for me. And I was rejoicing yesterday that I needed a sweatshirt to read the paper on the deck in the morning! Heaven! We’ve been eating so much wild salmon, that I’m surprised we haven’t changed color…it’s so darn good!

  4. Cindi says:

    You and I are on the same page when it comes to September – my favorite month. (It’s why I chose it for my wedding :))
    I’ve never seen this done with salmon and it looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  5. LS Gourmet says:

    For an extra special variation try “smoked” cured salmon. All you need is about 3 tablespoons of lapsung souchoung tea leaves, ground to a fine powder in your spice grinder. Add that to your basic salt & sugar cure, leaving out the aromatics and vodka, and then wrap and cure. The smoky flavor really comes through.

    Thanks for posting this variation – it’s always good to add another recipe to the collection. BTW, I use a foil wrapped paver stone left over from the walkway to the kitchen to weigh down the filet.

  6. Mrs Ergül says:

    we love cured salmon!!

  7. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    I make smoked salmon for every single holiday and occasion, but I have never tried to make my own lox. Guess it’s time to give it a whirl!

  8. Irvin says:

    Holy crap. I want some lox now. And I had no idea it was that easy to cure. WAY easier than bacon, and bacon is easy peasy. Must do that now…

  9. jwen says:

    I didn’t know it was possible to do this at home! I’m usually afraid of DIY raw fish type stuff. By the way, for some reason, the picture of the chopped dill looks so inviting – like I want to curl up and take a nap in it!

  10. Chris says:

    I love curing my own salmon too and I do it in the winter as I leave the fish out on the patio such that I don’t tie up precious space in the fridge. I use cooking (or regular) sake with salt and sugar. I will have to try your version with all those aromatics.

  11. Mom's Dish says:

    I love salmon. I add a little liquid smoke, absolutly amsmzing.

  12. laurasmess says:

    I am a huge fan of lox, or ‘lax’ as my Swedish family call it. So delicious… I think it’s the only recipe I have where dill is absolutely imperative! Your version looks amazing. Gorgeous photos… makes me quite excited to try this at home eventually (though salmon is so, so expensive here. Argh. I’ll need to be feeling generous one weekend!) x

  13. farmerpam says:

    This is one of those things I’ve never thought to try at home. Thanks for putting the idea in my head.

  14. Gita@My Persian Cooking in Canada says:

    Beutiful and preciese pictures ,Thank you Jennifer

  15. jenyu says:

    Kumar’s Kitchen – thank you.

    Lilly – good to know – thanks!

    Kristin – :) ha ha!

    Cindi – it’s quite lovely and I never realized how easy it was.

    LS Gourmet – hmmm, interesting addition with the smoke. I like your foil-wrapped stone too!

    Mrs. Ergül – :)

    Rocky Mountain Woman – I bet this is even easier than smoked salmon (which sounds fantastic).

    Irvin – what!?!? If bacon is easy, I totally have to do that!

    jwen – it’s fluffy stuff, isn’t it? :)

    Chris – wow, I’d love to leave it out in winter except… we have bears. Don’t you have critters who get curious? :)

    Mom’s Dish – seems to be a popular addition!

    laurasmess – I’m a huge fan of dill too :) And yes, salmon is not cheap where I live…

    farmerpam – sure thing, lady!

    Gita – thank you.

  16. Shawn Straiko says:

    This was so easy(except for finding fresh bay leafs) … tasted amazing and everyone loved it…..I now have the recipe memorized forever :) xoxoxo Thanx

  17. Alen D says:

    Can this be made with a filet of large trout as well?

  18. jenyu says:

    Alen – I’m not sure. I’ve never tried it with trout. You might want to google and find out if there are any recipes for it?

  19. Madeline says:

    I’ve been trying to think what to bring to Easter all week, and now I’ve got it figured out! I’m going to make some homemade bagels to go with this, and add some capers, dill, and lemon zest to some cream cheese or marscapone. Thank for the inspiration, and recipe!

  20. Emma says:

    How long will this keep in the refrigerator after slicing? Can it be frozen? If it can be frozen, should it be frozen in chunks instead of slicing first?

    This sounds great. I’m going to try it, but maybe with a smaller piece of salmon at first if it doesn’t store well. I think I could put this together in fifteen minutes, including picking out the bones.

  21. jenyu says:

    Emma – based on what I’ve googled, about a week in the fridge and apparently, it can be frozen too. I think it’s up to you if you want to freeze it whole or sliced.

  22. Anita says:

    This sounds AMAZING! I doubt seriously that I will be able to find fresh bay leaves in the small Nevada town I live in. Can I use dried bay leaves? Or leave it out altogether?? Or substitute something else?? Thanks!

  23. jenyu says:

    Anita – go ahead and try using dried.

  24. Rich says:

    WOW. 1st timer and results are incredible. I was killing time at lunch when I found this. Will never buy grocery store lox again. I am an avid charcuterie.

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