You can’t win them all.
Lately I’ve been having a good run with home curing. My duck prosciutto gets better with every preparation, my cured beef was a hit and the lox was off to such a good start. I’d like to say that it came out great. But this blog wouldn’t be complete without a few fail moments… and my lox is a good example.
My first problem was that none of the recipes I found could seem to agree on how long to leave the salmon in the curing rub. The curing time suggested by various bloggers/recipe sites ranged between 24 hours and 72 hours; quite a difference!
I chose to go long, pulling the fish out around the 50+ hour mark. That proved to be a little bit too long. The edges and top were over-cured; more like a salmon jerkey (which incidentally tasted great) than what you’d expect out of lox. Once I started shaving pieces off and got past the first layer I got the full lox flavor/texture that I was looking for. I probably would have been better suited to cure it for 24 hours.
The second mistake I made, which probably contributed as much to my unhappiness with the finished product as the extended curing time, was the weight of my prized south philly cement chunk. It was just too heavy. In conjunction with keeping the fish in the curing rub for an extra two days, the excess weight flattened the hell out of my salmon.
With the edges “jerkied” and the fish flattened, the 1lb of Salmon only yielded enough meat for three bagels-worth of lox. I think that adjusting all the variables will produce the desired result.
Final result: The flavor was great. Brown sugar/sugar/salt was a perfect rub, even without the smoked salt. Once the dryer pieces were removed (and consumed!) the second layer could have passed as a “bought at the deli” cut of lox. With a shorter cure/lighter weight I think that home cured lox is cost effective and tasty enough to try again.