Salmon sits on top of the dry cure

Salmon sits on top of the dry cure

The idea of making food edible and less perishable without cooking it has been a big part of my cooking experience in the last year. This usually means applying some sort of cure, smoke, fermentation, or a combination of two or more. Most recently I attempted cured salmon.

I love the flavour and texture of smoked salmon but it tends to be quite expensive. I tried to hot-smoke salmon a couple of summers ago but the results were (almost) inedible because of too much saltiness. Also, even if it had been properly executed hot-smoked salmon is quite a bit different than the smoked salmon that I’m used to and is more like barbecued salmon with a strong element of salty smokiness. Cold-smoking involves a more intricate rig with, roughly speaking, a combustion chamber, a food chamber, and a some sort of tube that connects the two chambers and cools the smoke before it gets to the food. Not entirely out of the question but certainly not appropriate for a spontaneous food experiment. So, I was intrigued by The Paupered Chef’s post on fennel-cured salmon.

They use the recipe printed in Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie–far-and-away the best cookbook that deals with smoking, curing, and sausage-making “under one roof”–and I did the same with some slight modifications. First of all, curing a whole side of salmon seemed a bit over the top so I went to work on a pound-a-half sized filet. As well, I didn’t have any Pernod in the cupboard so I substituted gin which isn’t exactly keeping with the anise/fennel flavour profile but anise is one of the secondary ingredients in the brand of gin that I used.

I scaled the dry cure ingredients down to match the size of my salmon fillet and rough measured the gin with the bottle’s cap. This worked well and I think I could even have scaled the cure ingredients back a bit more more because this amount is more about bringing sugar, salt, and spices in contact with the liquid that seeps out of the salmon and then, in turn, brings flavour back into the fish over time.

Cured salmon after two days in the fridge ready to be sliced

Cured salmon after two days in the fridge ready to be sliced

I was very pleased with the results. The flavour was quite similar to store-bought smoked salmon’s “curiness” except that it had more fennel and was a bit sweeter.  At first when I un-wrapped the salmon I was afraid that it would be heavily flavoured with gin and fennel because that’s what it–and soon the entire kitchen–smelled strongly of.   The highlights were an assertive salmon flavour backed by quite a lot of white pepper.

Home-cured salmon tartare

Home-cured salmon tartare

In terms of serving cured salmon is great just thinly-sliced and eaten straight from the knife.   For a more composed dish I diced a big piece of the fish and mixed it with capers, finely diced dill pickle (I didn’t have any cornichons or gherkins), finely diced shallot, a splash of lemon juice, and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil.  Garnished with flat leaf parsley and served on a red cabbage leaf I had salmon tartare.

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