Charcuterie, Seafood Recipes

Citrus cured copper river salmon

May 29, 2009

Seems like I have been on a bit of a salmon kick recently, but lets be honest here.. I live in Seattle, Coppper River is in full swing, the sun is shining, the sky is blue.. well, you get the picture.

I have cooked salmon a lot of different ways. Pan seared, roasted, slow roasted, grilled, steamed, poached. I should probably not get into my obsession with raw salmon either… Lets just say, more than once have a put a side of salmon in front of me, ready to fillet up for a party, and trimmed off the entire belly, just so I get that wonderful fatty cut for myself to eat raw whilst I am cooking. Sorry guests, no belly for you.

However, I have never cured my own salmon. It is more than likely that I have eaten my own weight in smoked salmon over the years, but never have never had a go at curing or smoking salmon before. Heck, I remember when I was a wee lad back in England, our family getting a package of smoked salmon shipped to us every Christmas as a present from my grandfather. The look on my face couldn’t have been more different from that of my twin brother’s. He couldn’t stand the stuff, I couldn’t stand having to wait till Christmas day to crack the package open and eat some for lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast.

Well, it seemed like it had to happen sooner rather than later. What with me starting to get into this home Charcuterie nonsense, and my love of the pink fish, it was just a matter of time. One thing I didn’t want to do was smoke it. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just don’t want to make the setup for it.

Then a bloody great book goes and lands on my doorstep.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention this book was a freebie. From time to time I get sent cookbooks from various publishers, with no strings attached. I don’t get paid for it, they sure as heck don’t expect blog posts or reviews on the books. If I find them interesting, I talk about them. If they aren’t my cup of tea, they don’t get a mention.

The Scandanavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann however is very much a cup of Darjeeling with a splash of milk thankyouverymuch. Now, I am not going to prattle on about the book that much. Go to a store, pick it up and flick through it. The book does it for me, but that is just my taste. Simple, clean, well executed food that is imagnative enough to be interesting, but simple enough to cook without too much sweat. Oh, and it also has rather spellbinding photography in it. We might well be going to Copenhagen next year, just thanks to the wonderful city shots in this book.

One recipe in there got me thinking. It was what they called “citrus marinated salmon”. To me that instantly sounded rather fresh and appealing. Course the lovely photo of a salmon fillet with little curls of citrus zest on it in the book sure helped. I was looking for something different that I could take to work for lunch, and this certainly seemed to be it.

I was right. It was bloody fantastic. The citrus really comes through, but doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of the lightly cured salmon. What’s more, sprinkle the cut slices with citrus zest just before eating, and the liveliness gets pushed even more.

The book says to serve it with a simple green salad, and some toast. I couldn’t agree more. Frankly though, I prefer it with bread. But no biggie.

Citrus Cured Salmon (recipe from The Scandanavian Cookbook)

NOTE: This recipe is for a full side of salmon. I did this with just 3/4lb of salmon – I just did 1/3 of the salt and sugar listed.

zest of 1 orange

zest of 1 lemon

1.5 cups superfine sugar

10 oz sea salt

1 side of salmon, filleted, skinned, pin bones removed

for serving: orange and lemon zest

Mix the zests together with sugar and sea salt (not the zest for serving). Rub this over the entire surface of the salmon (front and back), and wrap the fillet in a few layers of plastic wrap. Place in a dish (it might well leak liquid) and refrigerate for 3 days. (personally, I think it could be in there for much less – it was pretty firm after 3 days.. next I am going to try for two days)

Take the salmon out of the fridge after 3 days, remove the plastic wrap, and wash the fillet under cold water, to remove the cure. Wrap again in plastic wrap, and pop in the freezer for 12 hours.

Defrost the salmon in the fridge. When defrosted slice the salmon into thin slices. I like to lay the knife almost parallel to the cutting board, and just literally shave thin slices diagonally across the salmon fillet.

Best served sitting in a bright orange garden chair, wearing a light cotton shirt.

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  • lisaiscooking May 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    That looks just incredible! I’ve never cured my own salmon but watched a demo once and have wanted to since. I’m wondering about the freezing step? At first, I thought it was to make it easier to slice, but it’s then thawed before slicing. Does freezing affect the texture?

  • Amanda May 29, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous! wish i was devouring a slice right this second.

  • Eric May 29, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    This looks absolutely delicious. I’m definitely going to put this on my todo list to make. This seems like it would be very appropriate for smørrebrød as well.

    Copenhagen is a lovely city, you should definitely go if, for nothing else, watching a mother with 2 kids take home a full load of groceries while riding a bike.

  • nina May 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Simply exquisite!!!! You are truly blessed to have the “source” so near by!!!!

  • Marta May 29, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Matt, you’re my hero!!!!!!!!
    This looks amazing!!!!! It actually doens’t seem that intimidating to make this cured salmon, I’l going to have to attempt it. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe. Your photos look glorious, as always.
    I did field work in Newfoundland for a whole summer and the independant fishing boats used to dock just outside my little hut. Every couple of days, I used to walk down and get myself salmon so fresh it was still moving. Then I could experiment with many ways of cooking it. oh, those were the days! You know, there they have so much salmon the use the whole thing as fertiliser! Lucky plants!!
    I also love raw salmon!!!

  • Giff May 29, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    look at the color on that! the lines! the aesthetic! I simply must get that garden chair.

    oh wait, was there food? no no, it sounds delicious Matt, and it’s exactly the kind of DIY project I’m into these days

  • Kate May 29, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    That looks amazing (and the photos are beautiful.) I could eat smoked or cured salmon every single day and not get tired of it.

  • Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. May 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm


  • matt wright May 29, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Lisa – I tried some before, and some after freezing, and there really is no difference in texture. I think that the freezing step is there to hopefully kill any parasites that might be in the fish. This is a pretty typical procedure, in fact a lot of salmon sushi you eat would have been frozen first. My personal opinion on this is that I don’t think 12 hours is enough, especially in a household freezer. It isn’t even really enough time to fully freeze it. I have also been eating salmon raw from the fish for years, and never got sick – but I not going to promote that…

    Nina, Marta, Giff, Kate, Nurit – thanks very much! Giff – you crack me up

  • Peter G May 29, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    I’ve never ventured int the curing world…but this makes me want to go out and do it! I love anything with lemon, so this would be perfect. Wonderfully captured Matt.

  • kiss my spatula May 29, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    oh dear. that looks just too good. we are definitely spoiled aren’t we living so close to the source? 🙂

  • Y May 29, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    That looks unbelievably delicious! I love raw salmon belly, and cured salmon. Salmon cured in beetroot and citrus is a good one, off the top of my head. The colour you get from the beetroot is quite striking also.

  • Alex May 31, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Yes yes yes yes yes. You have the full and considered approval of a half Swede

  • foodwoolf June 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    OoOh! Love the new design and photos (Per usual). And my Scandanavian DNA applauds you for the recipe. Must try this!

  • mallory elise June 2, 2009 at 12:43 am

    rock, wood, and cloth all in the same photo?? im gonna hyperventilate here!

  • Kasey June 2, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    That looks really beautiful. I’ve cured salmon before, but never with citrus. What a great idea!

  • pigpigscorner June 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I love the colour! I’ve never trued curing my food before. It’s something on my to-try list.

  • rachel June 2, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I’ll just be the 18th person to say that this looks just beautiful beautiful and quite delicious
    You make it all sound quite simple so I might actually try it.

  • Lang June 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Beautiful looking crudo, Matt! Now allow me delve into a more unpalatable topic. Periodically I eat salmon sashimi and ceviche from fish I’ve caught (so I know how fresh they are), but after one such meal (and a blog post that followed) I was contacted by readers who enlightened me about a salmon parasite. I later talked with the folks at Mutual Fish and confirmed it. Apparently salmon (unlike tuna) can carry a parasite that, while not deadly, is unpleasant gastrically-speaking. I learned that sushi grade salmon is always frozen and thawed to kill the parasite. Do you think the crudo treatment has the same effect? I’ve also talked to old salts who have eaten raw salmon their entire lives without incident. But it gives one pause…

  • matt wright June 3, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for all the lovely comments guys! To answer a few:

    Lang: Yep – that is certainly a risk with wild salmon. How big a risk? Well, in my mind it is pretty small, but it is a risk none the less. This cured salmon recipe does call for freezing the fish for 12 hours after curing, however in my mind that should be 24hours minimum, especially in a residential freezer.

    Personally? I do both.. When I trim up a salmon fillet, I will often remove the fatty belly if it is thin, and is just going to overcook. Sometimes I cook that separately, other times I munch on it throughout cooking.

    Do I advocate this? … best to freeze the salmon first..

  • codfish June 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Wow, those colors are fantastic.

    Lang, do you know if the citrus and salt would kill the parasite? I imagine it would, but also, for us on the east coast, isn’t salmon almost always frozen or severely chilled before getting here?

  • Heather June 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    So, so gorgeous. I can’t wait until I can eat raw fish again! I want to make my own gravlax with homegrown bronze fennel and my home-infused aqvavit. Five more months! I guess mine will have to wait for winter steelhead, though. :

    @Robin (Codfish) – Cold doesn’t kill listeria or it’d die in the frigid waters whence the fish was pulled. As a pregnant lady who is also a biologist, I know way, way more about listeria and listeriosis than I ever thought I’d want to!

  • Heather June 4, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Ach! Nevermind about my last comment to Robin. I don’t think Lang was talking about Listeria.

    Citrus and salt don’t kill bacteria, as far as I know, but salt can kill bacteria if used to the point of dessication.

  • Jessamyn June 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I just made gravlax for the first time last year (with lots of dill, from a Saveur recipe), but inexplicably have not repeated the experiment. This citrus version sounds lovely.

    And I love how the salmon and the garden chair go together in that photo – one should always coordinate furniture with food, right?

  • Hank June 5, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Pretty sockeye! And it reminds me that I need to do a round of my version of cured salmon, done with spruce tips and acquavit…

  • Jonathan December 6, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I was inspired by this article but my attempt at curing salmon did not go so well. It was, in fact, a disaster. Detailed here:

  • mark December 24, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Great post – awesome pics.
    Just finished curing some wild steelhead trout with a slightly modified Ruhlman recipe – grated lemon zest and dry vermouth. Served it on top of pasta which had a sauce made of dijon mustard, white wine and capers – it totally brought out the lemon of the steelhead which was really cool.
    I spoke to a sushi chef a couple of nights ago about the whole freezing thing post curing. He reckons that with a sugar and salt mixture which extracts the moisture from the fish, there shouldn’t be any need to freeze the salmon. He also doesn’t believe that a residential freezer would do any good, since if there were any parasites left over, they would probably go into stasis in the freezer. He typically uses a commerical freezer from his fish supplier when preparing wild salmon, as it drops the fish below -40 which he says is sure to kill the parasites. One interesting tidbit that he shared was that a number of sushi chefs nowadays aren’t curing their salmon with vinegar and then freezing at extremely low temperatures since most salmon nowadays is farmed and as a result don’t contain the parasite that occurs with salmon that originated in fresh water. Got me thinking for the next batch that I make 😉

  • Artemis January 13, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Well, thank you. I have just made my second batch of your citrus cured salmon and believe Round Two will be even better than Round One. Looking at recipes on the internet is a delightful past-time, but bringing these creations to life is even more satisfying. I am so glad I turned my back on 20 years as a corporate executive to be a happy housewife! Thanks for another brilliant recipe to my repertoir to make it all the more rewarding.

  • Lyd Bell May 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Can I use frozen salmon to cure? And if so, do I have to re-freeze it? Will the parasite already have been killed? (I live inland in Europe and dont have access to fresh salmon). I would love to smoke my own salmon but really don’t think I can do it successfully, so I’ll settle for cured salmon.

  • mattwright May 9, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Using frozen salmon would be totally fine, yes – some things to consider though:

    How was the fish frozen? Flash freezing at sea is best – lower temps, and a far higher quality product
    How long has the fish been frozen? It is has been frozen for too long, the texture and flavor isn’t going to be great.

    I would look and see if there are any online resellers of fresh fish that can next day air ship it to you. There are some companies doing that in the US at the moment, and their quality is really pretty great. In fact, most will get you far fresher fish than you can find at most markets.

  • Sarahgoat July 28, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I couldn’t resist this and tried it. In 2 days, it was firm. I cut a sliver and tried it — wonderful!! Rinsed, frozen (for a bit too long, due to life’s vagaries) and sliced thinly, absolutely wonderful. Three and a half of us finished the side in a little over a day. It was easy. Much easier than gravlax, which I also have enjoyed making and eating, and totally different.

  • Gastronopoly Blue September 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    My modification on this recipe is as follows: zest an orange, a lemon & a lime on fish first. Then squeezing the juices of all 3 on the fish. Mix course brown sugar & coarse seat salt together (about half n half, a little more salt though) and rub entire mixture over the salmon. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, place on deep plate or cookie sheet, put something heavy (books are great) on top of fish and sit in fridge for at least 24 hours. Depending on the texture you like, is how long you should leave the brine on for, but I like it sushi style and I can barely wait the 24 hours to try it! Wash off the salmon and slice it up!

  • Anja Cael December 5, 2010 at 11:37 am

    that looks stunning and i loooove salmon, although it makes me wonder if it would work without the sugar. it said it turned out pretty tough after 3 days, so i wonder if maybe it would be softer without the hygroscopic properties of sugar. is there any other reason for its presence in the recipe?

    • mattwright December 5, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      Anja – the sugar is there for flavor to be honest. Something to offset the large amount of salt required to properly cure the fillet.

  • Nkuchmak January 17, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Hey Matt
    First of all let me say this is an amazing website and my entire sunday afternoon has been spent reading through your recipes.

    Im a big fan of cured salmon, infact I dont ever cook salmon or trout anymore and save them for curing instead. I have always cured my fish using a traditional gravlax recipe similar to yours but using dill in place of citrus. I cant wait to get my hand on another salmonoid to try this one out.

    Special thanks for the tip on freezing before eating.