Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kosher Doshers Lox

Growing up in Brooklyn NY and eating Lox was the norm; well at least for me it was. What I didn't know was how unpretentiously Jewish this was. When I was a kid my Mom (We called her Ma) and I would hit the deli's at least twice a month to pick up goodies. Goodies to me meant Lox and everything else that screams Jewish. We went to all the Deli's and restaurants that catered to the Jewish populace. We were Jews and that was normal for us. Don't get me wrong we ate all kinds of food but we loved the quintessential stereotypical Jewish food. 

My Bubbe lived across the street from the famous Katz's Deli in NYC (The  famous scene from When Harry Met Sally) and we ate there every time we visited. BTW- the now famous Table and Chairs are marked and yes I have sat in them.This means of course we ate there at least once or twice a month. My favorites were the Knishes, knoblewurst, Pastrami and their cream soda. Oh yea lets not forget the pickle that came with everything. Man oh man do I miss that food.  

Looking back on my childhood I never associated the food that we ate as being Jewish. Everybody ate Jewish which is not unlike Chinese food. We never said "let's get some Jewish food". 

BTW- It's common knowledge and a side joke that Jewish people love chinese food. During christmas the chinese restaurants in NY are filled with festive Jewish people eating their fair share of their favorite food group. Why are they festive? It's not because it's christmas but the because the restaurants are empty. 

It wasn't until I left Brooklyn and joined the U.S. Navy that I came to recognize some of the cultural cuisine differences. Let's face it when you leave the greatest culinary melting pot in the world there is bound to be a shock to the psyche & stomach especially when you don't know any better. What I found interesting was what other people thought about food or rather what they did not. 

Something you probably don't know about New York is that most Deli's have their own take on Lox and have a secret recipe. Prices range from $24 - $40 a pound or there abouts. Know that just because it costs a lot of $$$ does not mean it's any good. Some Lox are sliced thick and some are thin. Some are delicate and some just suck. Lox can have a little smoke or a heavy thick smog or none at all. The saltiness is a personal choice and is of course decided by the owner and operator of the Deli. My take on Lox is simple and is personal and is never really consistent. I love Lox so much I once took a cruise to Alaska and I ate a pound a day among other goodies. I gained 13 lbs in one week. I also rented a Tux knowing full well I was going to overeat because the waistline is adjustable. 

So let's move on too Lox. What's the real story? Well first of all you will never get a consensus. I searched the net and came away with the following. 

Smoked Salmon- Well I live in the NW and that's mostly what we have up here. Smoked Salmon is simply cured Salmon (dry-brine or wet brine with sugar) that is Hot Smoked. I have come across cold smoked Salmon too not to be confused with real Lox. Real Lox has a different texture and is not smoked. 

Traditional Lox- Salmon that is Dry-Brined or Wet-Brined with Salt and sometimes sugar but is never smoked. 

Belly Lox- This is my Moms favorite. Belly Lox is the fatty part of the Salmon and has great full flavor and is normally on the salty side. There are Lox aficionados that consider this the only Lox to be eaten. Everything else is imitation. Belly Lox has lots of extra fat which makes it amazingly rich!!!! One of my FAVS. 

Nova Lox- This particular Lox comes from the Nova Scotia and is cured and cold smoked. A fun tidbit about the name Nova Scotia Lox and NY is the fact that much of the Lox imported to NY back in the day came from Nova Scotia. When I was a kid you always asked for Nova Lox because it was distinct from everything else. Now a days the name implies Cured and cold smoked but may not be from that part of the world.

Gravlax- Gravlax is the Scandinavian version of Lox. Normally made with lots of fresh dill and spices that could include but are not limited to juniper berries, pepper and liquor such as aquavit or brandy. Click on this link if you want some facts about Gravlax.


This is my very easy cure recipe for my version of Lox. First let me explain the percentages. All ingredients to be added are expressed as a percentage of meats weight in grams. Percentages are used to standardize recipes so replication is easy. All weights must be metric. Everything is a percentage of the meats weight after trimming. Example- Meat weight 2393 grams and we want to find out the amount of salt we need in grams- 2393 X 3.5%=83.755 or 2392/100 X 3.5 =83.755 grams. 

As you can see in the chart there are three percentages to choose from in the recipe. These are the percentages that I have used in the past that work well. I like them all. If you are not a huge fan of salt choose a lower percentage of Salt or create your own.....super easy.

The Caveat is the winter I like to cold smoke my salmon so in that case I would choose to brine my fish. Fish absorbs brines and sugar better land animals,and in a liquid, the salt is more evenly distributed in the meat ( For me safety is always first and cold smoking fish has inherent risks namely Botulism (there are several more). To do this safely I turned to none other than Stanley Marianski author of Curing and Smoking FishI own all his books on curing and smoking and in my opinion he is the go to guy. I won't go into all the details here on cold smoking but just know you have to do it the right way or you can get someone very sick or kill them. So to keep simple I will post this. You need a brine of 16% salt or a 65 degree brine read on a salometer. If you want to dry cure with salt you need about a inch of salt on the bottom of the fish and a half inch on top. If you want more details read the book and look at the FDA website. 

The King Salmon was given this name because they're big. In my opinion the "King" name can be also be used to describe the greatest Salmon species. 
The King Salmon is exceptionally great for this this application. I've been successful with other types of Salmon...I.E Sockeye, Coho and Steelhead (some people don't think Steelhead is part of the Salmon family).I started out with a 3 lbs (1361 Grams) king Salmon.

Remove all the pins bones using tweezers. 
Score the back of Salmon with a very sharp knife trying not to pierce the flesh of the Salmon. This will help with salt penetration. Have a very large multilayered cheesecloth standing by.

Place Salmon on the large multiplayer cheese cloth. Multilayered because you don't want the salt falling out. Coat the entire salmon with the cure mixture. 

Make sure to get the salt into into every nook and cranny.Which means the back too.

Your pretty Salmon package should look like this. 

Place Salmon on cooling rack over tray. All the juices will collect here. Make sure to cover with plastic wrap. Flip every 12 hours and drain collected liquid in plate. Depending on your desired results and the thickness of the Salmon you will cure it for at least 42 hours but not more than 60 hours. The longer you cure it the more dense it will become. This Salmon was very thick so I cured it for 60 hours. Note: If I am going to cold smoke I will cure less meaning I do not want it as dense. 

As you can see I did not put a weight on the Salmon which is traditional with Gravlax. Doing this make the fish more dense and squeezes out the liquid. It's not wrong to do this but I just don't think it's necessary.

All done!!!! Review and notes are posted at the very bottom of the post. 

All Rinsed off and ready to be sliced. Choose a very thin blade to slice the very delicate Lox.
There are no real rules for slicing Lox. Slice with the grain or against it doesn't make that much of a difference. Make sure to slice the Lox thin unless of course thicker ones are your preference. 

Review- Well as suspected it came out great. My daughter thought I could have cut back on the salt a bit but she's 15 and I am 50. It's all about personal opinion which is very subjective. The Lox was delicate, silky and had a rich texture.  

Some things to think about. After you rinse the salt off you might find the texture on the very top to be too dense which just means you have to rinse it again and again or possibly give it a soak in ice cold water for a bit. Doing this will also remove some salt. The texture of course changes as you slice deep into the Lox. 

If you plan on cold-smoking the fish don't use any Smoked Salt. If you don't want to cold smoke and want a smoked flavor use what ever smoked salt you want; I just happen to like Alderwood. Since this is not a post about cold smoking I won't go into much detail but think about the following. Cold smoking in my opinion requires less curing. Cold smoking will remove some moisture. I cured my fish for 60 hours but if I was going to cold smoke the Salmon I would have pulled it out much earlier. 

Don't skimp on the Salmon purchase. Go for the gusto and pick the King. The thicker the better of course.