Gravlax is an internationally acclaimed Swedish specialty. It's salmon cured with salt, sugar and lots of fresh dill. It is always served cold, as an appetizer or on bread.
It's essential to use only the best and freshest salmon available. The quality of the salt is equally important. Use only high-quality, unrefined sea salt. If using wild salmon, it should be deep frozen for a few days before consumption in order to eliminate parasites (nowadays, freezing is recommended for farmed salmon as well). It's more practical to freeze the salmon after curing, since it doesn't have to be frozen twice (if everything isn't eaten at once).
I have made gravlax when working in some of Sweden's best restaurants, so I feel confident that I hereby can present to you a completely reliable recipe. Nowadays, lots of varieties have popped up; with dark sugar, whisky, beets and even with blueberries(!). The only thing that varies in the original recipe is the ratio salt/sugar. It ranges between 1 part salt to 2 parts sugar and 2 parts salt to 1 part sugar. I prefer the latter, since I don't want the salmon too sweet.
I use fresh, farmed Norwegian salmon fillet. This one weighed 1.96 kg.
Use a pair of pliers to remove all the bones. Leave the skin on. Rinse the fillet only if it's not extremely fresh and has started to smell (fresh fish has no smell at all, on the other hand, if it smells bad, it's too old and should not be used for gravlax).
Weigh the fillet and take a note. Cut it in half crosswise.
This much dill is needed for 2 kilo salmon fillet. Only the stems are used. The leaves can be saved for something else, for instance for the classic gravlax sauce (see below).
Chop the dill stems. Mix with:
For each 1 kilo fillet:
40 g sea salt
20 g white (caster) sugar
2 tsp white pepper, coarsley ground
1 tsp dill seeds (optional)
and crush to a paste in a mortar or food processor.
Place one piece, skin down, in a stainless steel or glass tray. Cover with most of the paste and put the second piece on top. Spread the rest of the paste on top and around the fish. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and put a weight on top.
Cure for 72 hours in a temperature between 0 and 4 C (32-39F), the lower the better. Turn the fish twice a day. Do not pour off the liquid that forms.
Now discard the liquid. Rinse the fillets quickly and scrape off all the spices and dill. Slice the gravlax the way you prefer. I prefer big, thin slices parallell to the skin, while others prefer cubes or thick slices perpendicular to the skin. It's really only a matter of preference. The left skin can be cut in pieces, brushed with oil and broiled on the grill. It's considered an exclusive delicacy.
Pack and freeze the salmon for three days. Small packages of gravlax are practical to have in the freezer.
Thaw in the refrigerator and serve ice cold. The classic sauce is gravlax sauce, recipe here: http://forum.sausagemaking.org/viewtopic.php?t=8582
I prefer it like this, though, on bread with butter, a dill sprig, lemon and some extra salt and pepper only.
Gravlax will keep for about one week in the refrigerator and several months in the freezer.