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…


Late Night Cravings- an update

Update on my Late Night Cravings post:

Cured beef.
Wow. I didn’t expect my first attempt to come out this flavorful. The curing solution of sugar/salt with the worcestershire black pepper and truffle salt gave the meat a very distinct taste; leaving a softer than jerky texture and dark brown/purple-ish color. I sliced it on the meat slicer into 1/4″ wide strips after rubbing it with a black pepper rub. Next time, I’ll use a thicker steak. Total cost on this was about $3.50 sugar/salt use included.

Chai Tea Ice Cream.
It came out great. Spice-full. Maybe too much. I haven’t decided yet. I used six Tazo tea bags and I think four or five might have been enough. But the finished product is still immensely good. I could see eating it with a slice of pumpkin pie.

I’m thinking about making pickles this week; if it works out, expect an update!

Late Night Cravings

I accomplished very little today, despite my best efforts. It was a lazy day off spent mostly catnapping and movie watching. The unfortunate side effect is that I’m wide awake at one a.m. and don’t want to disturb my lovely little Chef Claire who’s upstairs trying her best to get to sleep.

So instead of heading to the basement to watch a movie, I’ve found myself in the kitchen.

Tonight’s first project was Ice Cream #3: Chai Tea.
I liked #1 (Vanilla) but found #2 (Orange Blossom Honey) to be foul. Honey is one of those “a little goes a long way” things; particularly orange blossom honey, and while the finished ice cream was good on a preparation level, it was just a bit too honey for me.

The Chai is a risky choice. I’m not really in my ice cream making comfort zone yet; not enough to deviate from recipes. Flavor balancing with sweets is new to me…. and for the Chai, I went off recipe. The book I’ve been using for recipes only had a listing for Earl Grey. I used Chai instead, so let’s hope that the amount of sugar and other ingredients balances out the spice level of five bags of tea.

For the record, my least favorite part of ice cream making is removing the egg yolks from the whites. It’s disconcerting to feel them separate in my hands. I’m going to hit up Fante’s in the Italian Market this week for some new knobs for my stove/oven; I think I’ll look for one of the de-yolker doodlehickies.

Tonight’s second project was: Cured Beef.
Emboldened by my last duck breast prosciutto, but without the proper resources for a cured salami (I still need live started cultures) I decided to do a cured beef. Sort of like a hybrid of beef jerky and bresaola.

The recipe and prep are simple; I just hope I picked a good cut of meat. I went for something with very little fat for fear of it going rancid. The setup is just like the duck prosciutto, but instead of a basic salt cure, this recipe calls for sugar, too.

¾ cup sea salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 steak
Black Pepper. (I used worchesteshire flavored pepper!)

Lay a bed of the curing mixture down, put the steak on top of it. Cover it with the remaning mixture, and let sit in the refrigerator for three days. Unlike the duck, it doesn’t need to be cured afterwards. No cheese cloth/hanging for a week. Just cut and enjoyed.

I’ll do updates on both projects when they’re done!