Gravlax – A Swedish Smörgåsbord Staple

I was looking at the calendar today – and I realised two things. One, we have been in Brazil for exactly 2 months today and secondly in exactly a months time, C and I will be on our way to Singapore (via Abu Dhabi for a few days) to celebrate Christmas.

Knowing how quickly time goes by, I thought I would start posting some really good Swedish Christmas recipes. Or at least the recipes that we prepare in my family every Christmas. Last year, C and I celebrated Christmas in Mexico City, and we put together a dinner for 15 people – it was such a success and everyone loved the food! Here you can read about my planning for that dinner and what we served Swedish Christmas in Mexico City

One of my favourite recipes that I never got a chance to post last year, is Gravlax – or cured spiced salmon. It is a dish that is not traditional Christmas food, but it is so quintessentially Scandinavian, that it would be odd not to include it on our Julbord. Furthermore it is the kind of dish that people give you some serious respect for, as today most people buy it ready made at the store – but in all honesty it could not be simpler to prepare – it just takes a few days! 

27 dec 004

The name gravlax literally translates to ‘burried salmon’ as apparently in the middle ages fisherman would make it by salting the salmon and lightly fermenting the fish by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. Today, we no longer need to burry the salmon instead we make a dry marinade made up of salt, pepper, sugar and dill and let it cure for a few days in the fridge, we then serve it with a dollop of homemade mustard sauce – it really is that simple!

For the Gravlax

What you need:

  • 1 large salmon fillet with skin, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Masses of dill

What you do:

The salmon should be bought fresh and then frozen to kill off bacteria. Defrost before marinating. 

Score the skin (but not too deeply) in a few places and rub in the oil.

Mix salt, sugar and white pepper in a bowl. Once it is thoroughly mixed together rub liberally the dry marinade onto the meaty sides of the salmon fillet.

Put the two salmon fillets on top of each other with plenty of dill in between and skin side facing outwards (like a sandwhich). You will need to wrap the salmon ‘sandwhich’ in plastic wrap, however put the remaining sugar/salt/pepper mixture on both the skin before wrapping it tightly. Put the fillets in a plastic bag

Place the salmon in the fridge (preferably in a casserole dish) with a weight on top (eg. a mortar on a plate) and keep for 48 hours. Turn over the salmon in the plastic bag once a day. After 48 hours it should be done.

Remove the wilted dill and cut the cured salmon into thin slices, place gravlax on a platter, with some fresh dill and lemon and serve. Alternatively you can use the gravlax and make little open face sandwhiches with dark rye bread.

Traditionally we serve gravlax with a sauce called hovmästersås which literally translated means Steward Sauce, but basically it is a dill and mustard sauce which accompanies the salmon excellently.

Hovmästersås or Mustard Sauce

Beat together

  • 3-4 tablespoons mild yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon French dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 dl oil
  • add finely cut dill

Once everything is beaten together it should be a rather thick consistency. You serve the salmon with a dollop of this sauce and enjoy! I promise you, this will be the star of your meal.


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