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.


A lock on Lox

I learned a very important lesson while shopping for home cured lox supplies; the Philadelphia Police Department gets easily weirded out by a large tattooed man walking down the sidewalk with a Whole Foods shopping bag in one hand and a giant chunk of cement in the other.

So much so that they’re likely to drive by twice, then finally ask “is everything alright” to said large tattooed cement holding gentleman. Claire suggested that they were probably worried that I was going to brick someone’s window (on a main street, at 2pm, with a Whole Foods shopping bag in one hand) and as such their query was warranted. Me? I have other theories that I could blabber on about, but since tonight’s update is about Lox; let’s move on.

I sort of go either way on seafood. I like it (broad generalization for so many different meats and ways to cook them) but I usually don’t find myself craving it. One constant exception is lox. Salty goodness that tastes good on a bagel, in an omelette, or just eaten on it’s own. It’s also pricey.

So we decided to make our own. We had all the makings, except for salmon, so I took a $20 out of my “Shawn’s Rainy Day” envelope and headed out to Whole Foods. I’m generally not a fan of the chain; their anti foie gras nonsense from a few years ago being one of several factors, but when it comes to fresh seafood in my area… Whole Foods is the best choice.

I told the fishmonger that I was making lox, so he picked out an impressive one pound piece of wild caught salmon. He gave it the once over for me, removing the pesky pin bones and wrapped it up. Total price: $14.

I picked up a lemon and some key limes, coincidentally enough I was going to be cooking baked salmon with key lime butter and citrus zested asparagus for dinner tonight. For someone who rarely eats seafood, I was in omega-3 overload.

The only thing I was missing was something heavy to weigh down the fish during the curing process. Luckily… South Philly provides. I found a nice chunk of cement. Perfect size and weight and belonging to whomever picked it up. Without slowing down I scooped it up and kept right on walking. Eliciting some stares from folks along my way (giant tattooed guy with a brick) as well as a brief chat with one of Philadelphia’s finest (giant tattooed guy with a brick), I knew that all of this would be worth the trouble.

So. Dinner has been cooked. The key lime butter was outstanding with the salmon fillets. The asparagus perfect with lemon zest and garlic. After the kitchen was cleaned up, I started getting ready for the lox preparation.

1 lb. fillet of salmon
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1c. kosher salt


Combine the sugars/salt. Mix till it resembles sand. Lay out enough plastic wrap to fully cover your fish+cure. Sprinkle enough of the cure on the plastic wrap to fully cover the bottom of the fillet. Once placed, pack on the remaining cure. Cover the entire fillet. You want to see all cure and no salmon.

Tightly wrap the fillet leaving a small section open on one corner for the juices to run out. Place the wrapped salmon in a steel pan, and weigh down with a brick/ cans of soup/ etc. Something that will press the cure into the meat and the liquid out of it. If you use a brick, wrap in aluminium foil.

The curing process can take from one to three days.

When completed, unwrap and rinse the fish. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and slice thinly.

As always, I’ll update you guys on how things went.
Until then…