Making gravlax is a really simple curing project with a great payoff. Unlike a lot of other curing projects, this one will be ready to eat in about 24-48 hours (depending on the size of the fish you are using). Traditional gravlax is made by flavouring trout or salmon with dill, but you can substitute the dill and play around with your own flavour combinations to make your own personal version. I have made gravlax a number of times before using things such as dill, orange peel, beetroot and vodka; so the possibilities really are endless. In this case I decided to give hops a try as they were in season and I was hoping that the fruity, citrusy notes from the hops would translate well on the fish.
1 whole trout (or salmon) about 1.5 kg, filleted, skin on & pin-boned
1/3 cup sea salt
1/4 cup raw sugar
60 ml vodka
1 cup fresh hops, pick the bracts (leaves form the cones), plus more for later (if you cannot source any fresh hops or don’t want to use hops, you can substitute with fresh dill (or whatever takes your fancy).
Weigh out the ingredients and pick the bracts from the hop cones.
As a general rule of thumb with seafood – the fresher the better, which also applies in this case. If you’re not able to catch it yourself just make sure to ask at your local fish market for the freshest catch they have. The fish will need to be filleted for this recipe, so if you’re not too sure about doing it yourself most fish markets will gladly do this for you. As you can see I filleted my own fish and it’s not the tidiest job, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. I prefer to do it myself just so I can use the heads and frames to make Ukha, which is a traditional Russian fish soup – it’s really tasty!
Hops have been said to possess a number of antioxidant properties that can help prevent gum disease and fight cavities – surely this makes it a health food? The sticky yellow clusters are the Lupulin Glands. These contain essential oils and resins which are what give beer its flavour.
Place both your fillets skin side down, and remove any pin bones using tweezers. These bones can be tricky to find so it also pays to carefully run your hand along the flesh to feel for any bones that you may have missed.
Combine the salt, sugar and hop leaves in a bowl and gently rub half of the mixture into the flesh of each fillet. Gently pour the vodka over each fillet; try not to wash off any of the cure (if any does come off just put it back on as best you can).
The smell of the vodka and hops combined was truly amazing; infusing vodka with hops now seems like something I should try as I think that would truly be amazing and unique. I’ve added that project to my ever expanding project list!
Place one of the fillets on top of the other like a sandwich – with the fillets as the bread and the hops as the filling.
Wrap the fillets together tightly in plastic wrap. Sit it in a shallow dish and place another dish on top. To give the top dish some weight and keep the fillets compressed you can put some cans in the dish or maybe a large juice bottle etc. – whatever will fit really. Keep it refrigerated for about 24-48 hours. I flipped mine over every 8 hours or so. The time may vary, so 24-48 hours is just a guide. Mine was ready in 36 hours.
You may find that some liquid has pooled in the bottom of your dish. This is normal; just pour it off.
When your gravlax is ready just unwrap the plastic wrap, scrape off the remaining cure mixture and pat down with some paper towel. Slice into fine slices to serve. Personally I like to have mine drizzled with a bit of olive oil, with a mixed green salad and boiled potatoes on the side or alternatively on a dark rye bread with sliced red onion .