Gravlax / dry-brined fish -salty

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by masseurchef, Feb 1, 2019.

  1. masseurchef

    masseurchef

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    Recent (1-2 years) culinary school grad, line cook.
    Ok, I know cured fish is salty, but mine seems to be a bit excessively salty, so curious about any tips etc. I'm doing salmon (gravlax) mostly, but also did a pacific snapper (rockfish) in which I slow cooked it in 175F oven for a few hours after curing for a day to simulate smoking. The results are delicious but just quite salty:

    -1:1 sugar:salt by weight +dill, liquid smoke, pepper.
    -rub salmon, wrap in plastic, leaves ends open so liquid escapes, press in fridge for around 3 days, draining liquid periodically.
    -pull off skin and rinse.
    -slice thin and eat

    The thickest parts of the fish seem to be less salty, so perhaps I need to fold over the thinnest parts of the filet? Am I brining too long / too short? Thanks!
     
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  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    Try this. Reduce the salt and sugar to no more than 50% of the weight of the Salmon. Cure for 24 hours for a light cure and up to 48 hours for a heavy cure. For lighter fish, reduce the ratio of salt and sugar to weight and time spent in the brine accordingly.

    Try this and see if you like it.

    BTW, you can shave thin slices of your salty Salmon and other fish and use them to flavor other foods. You can also reduce the level of salt in the fish by simply soaking them in water. You'll lose some texture but, you should be able to reduce the saltiness at least to the point where its edible. Its by no means a perfect fix. But, its better than throwing the fish away.

    But, try the shaved fish in other dishes such as rice, pasta or with some sort of app made with things like avocados, fresh tomatoes and ingredients, especially acidic ingredients. The salty fish could pair very nicely with a mild, soft cheese and an aromatic herb such as tarragon in a crostini type delivery system. You could dice an mix the salted fish with mashed potatoes or use it instead of salt in a fish soup or stew.

    You could freeze it in some water or chicken/vegetable stock and use it at a later time as a stock.

    Good luck. :)
     
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I always use 2 parts sugar, 1 part kosher salt. The curing time never exceeds 24 hours if I can help it.
     
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  4. masseurchef

    masseurchef

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    Recent (1-2 years) culinary school grad, line cook.
    Thanks for the tip, just curious how the texture is after 24 hours curing?
     
  5. the apostate

    the apostate

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    I'm curious too as I routinely cure mine for 4 or 5 days and then let it air dry (under refrigeration) for another day before serving.

    I also close the ends of my wrap so it essentially cures in a liquid brine, FWIW I've never had a problem with saltiness either...
     
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  6. someday

    someday

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    What type of salt did you use?
     
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  7. chefross

    chefross

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    I've been cold smoking and hot smoking salmon for 20 years now and I have NEVER brined the fish for more than 4-5 hours.
    Cold smoking can take as long as 4-5 days while hot is only a few hours.
    I always soak and rinse the filets several times after brining, then lay them out on screens with a fan blowing on them to form the pellicle, before they go into the smoker......
    These are fresh caught King Salmon right out of Lake Huron that I filet myself. Sometime the thickness can exceed an inch plus but rarely. I have also smoked Whitefish and Pike but have no experience with any others.
     
  8. NotDelia

    NotDelia

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    It's perhaps not quite the same so I hope this isn't off-topic but here's one of my favourite recipes for a similar thing that I learned at college about a hundred years ago.

    Get a side of salmon or just a piece of fillet (trout works great too), remove skin if necessary and pin bone.
    Heap loads of salt onto it, rub in the salt a little bit.
    Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for an hour - no more or it'll get too salty.

    Meanwhile, make the marinade - enough to cover the piece of fish.
    Cut an orange into about eight pieces and put in a saucepan. (I've tried with lemon and lime but the orange works so much better.)
    Pour some dark soy sauce onto it
    Blat a couple of tablespoons of runny honey into the mix
    Heat it to infuse
    Set aside to cool down

    After the hour is up, remove fish from the fridge and quickly wash the salt off with cold water.
    Pat dry to remove any excess water.
    Put fish and marinade into a bag or container - making sure the fish is covered.

    Leave for maybe 24 hours. Then thinly slice.
    Use it just as you'd use gavlax. Tiny diced beetroot is nice with it and maybe soured cream or horseradish sauce. It looks pretty good served on a canape spoon or you could serve it with brown bread.
     
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  9. the apostate

    the apostate

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    Great question.

    I've always been told the standard rule is 1 cup Diamond Crystal = 1/2 cup Morton Kosher = 1/4 cup table salt.

    Could this be the problem?
     
  10. masseurchef

    masseurchef

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    Recent (1-2 years) culinary school grad, line cook.
    Yes, actually, I switched to Diamond Crystal after my first aforementioned salty results, but even with Diamond, my pacific snapper was just a bit too salty. I wonder if size of the piece of fish matters; the pacific snapper was not a whole filet, so perhaps smaller pieces of fish absorb too much salt?
     
  11. someday

    someday

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    If it was all just a bit too salty I would just cut down on the amount of cure you are using for the fish. Are you using a ratio of curing mix:fish? By weight? Or are you just "eyeballing" it?

    If you are just eyeballing it I would just say you must have a slightly heavy hand with the cure. The method you described (other than the liquid smoke, which I am 99% sure doesn't have any salt in it) is pretty standard, so I don't see anything amiss.

    1:1 ratio of salt to sugar is fine. Some people like Kuan go withe more sugar, while I personally use a .5:1 sugar/salt ratio when I cure fish. It's a personal taste thing--I'm not suggesting Kuan is wrong but I certainly don't like my cures that sweet. But it has the benefit of probably being your easiest fix...just use less salt.

    The only other thing I'd suggest (someone upthread touched on it) but maybe try not draining the water from the fish? The process of osmosis is a little too technical for the purposes of this thread, but there may be something there...by draining off the water you might be essentially disrupting the process of equilibrium and creating a more concentrated salt solution. Osmosis takes time (salt/sugar and water is constantly in a state of flux between the flesh and the brine/liquid around the fish) and by draining this water you may have accidentally concentrated the salt too much. It's hard to know from behind a PC, but there might be something there worth exploring.

    I am also curious what you think is "salty." I only ask because gravlox is usually at least a LITTLE salty. I mean, it has to be, right? My opinion is that it's salty like potato chips, bacon, popcorn, prosciutto, etc are salty. As in. pleasantly salty. So, if it's salty like bacon or ham then I think you might just be a little sensitive to salt. Keep in mind too that by the time you combine the salmon with, say, a bagel and cream cheese, it might not be too salty.

    I would get rid of the liquid smoke...gravlox isn't smoked anyways.
     
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  12. masseurchef

    masseurchef

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    I'm just rubbing the cure on the fish like a dry rub on a pork shoulder or something, lol. I will try a wet cure, however. I think you might be on to something that perhaps draining the liquid is allowing too high a salt concentration. I know cured fish is salty but I'm talking about a level of saltiness that is excessive -like the saltiness of the ocean where the fish came from :)
     
  13. Algonquin J. Calhoun

    Algonquin J. Calhoun

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    First post...just registered. Post# 8 caught my eye. Is that all there is to it ? Does the orange "cure" the fish like lime in ceviche (sp) ? If there were flukes or parasites in the fish, are they taken care of ? Never done this before. Thanks.
     
  14. NotDelia

    NotDelia

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    Hi and welcome from another newbie. I'm not entirely sure of the curing effect of the acid in the orange. It probably does add a bit to the cure (just like lime would) but it also gives it a good flavour. It's the initial salting that does the cure. You'll see from the other posts that most people cure with salt and sugar. I suppose that the honey in the marinade is taking the place of sugar in the initial cure.

    I really don't know about killing parasites. I'd guess the salt would do that. But I'd not expect to find any parasites in sashimi quality fish anyway, which I assume people would use for this type of preparation. I've answered as best I can so looking forward to seeing what more experienced folks have to say on the subject.
     
  15. Algonquin J. Calhoun

    Algonquin J. Calhoun

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    What prompted my question was watching a "Wild Alaska" or similar TV series. Mushers and year-around residents say they store salmon for their dogs for months on end. Raw salmon, they said, was bad...bad because of parasites or flukes or something. They smoke the dog's salmon for a long time.
     
  16. masseurchef

    masseurchef

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    *Important to note that it is advised to use commercially frozen (home freezers are not considered sufficient) fish, as commercial freezing reaches a low enough temperature for sufficient time to kill parasites. For my gravlax, I bought previously frozen sockeye salmon.

     
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  17. the apostate

    the apostate

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    Beat me to it.

    Virtually all commercially processed fish is frozen immediately after being caught for this very reason

    https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/08/nyregion/sushi-fresh-from-the-deep-the-deep-freeze.html

    "Most would be even more surprised to learn that if the sushi has not been frozen, it is illegal to serve it in the United States"

    Also, and admittedly this is just a pet peeve of mine so apologies in advance, there is no such thing as "sushi/sashimi grade fish". That's simply a made up marketing term with no legal meaning whatsoever.
     
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  18. NotDelia

    NotDelia

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    Well, I learned something new! :) I really thought that 'sashimi grade fish' was more than just a marketing term - at least in the UK. I like to check things for myself so I went to the UK govt website. Sure enough there's no mention of the term there although there are details of how fish which are intended to be eaten raw or lightly cooked must be treated (ie frozen).

    They have a useful PDF on the subject.
    https://www.food.gov.uk/print/pdf/node/290
     
  19. podzap

    podzap

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    Gravlax - here in Finland we call it "graavilohi" - we make it about once a week.

    1. Trim off the belly fat strip from the bottom of the filet
    2. Use a pair of tweezers to pull out any bones (about 13 of them)
    3. Cut the filet down to size to fit in your glass or metal pan(s)
    4. Cover with a light layer of sea salt (coarse pieces, 1/4 the size of peas)
    5. Sprinkle a bit of cognac
    6. Cover the top with plastic and pop in the fridge for 12 hours
    7. Remove from fridge, discard plastic, pour off water, shake off salt from the filet
    8. Put filet to cutting board and start slicing

    It's that simple. Steps 1-6 should take no longer than 10 minutes.