1. White pepper is slightly spicier than black but has a slightly more milder flavour. The main reason I prefer white over black is so I don't end up with black specks on the salmon = prettier! But black peppercorns or even ground black pepper is fine. If using ground pepper (white or black), use 2 teaspoons.
2. SALT TYPES & CURING TIMES
Salt roughly falls into 4 categories (smallest to largest) - table salt, kosher / coarse cooking salt, flakes and rock salt. Rock salt cures salmon more evenly from the surface to the centre.
DO NOT use table salt (grains too small, makes salmon crazy salty) or iodised salt of any type (can turn salmon brown, packet label should say if it is iodised).
* ROCK SALT: 36 hrs cure time per recipe = Medium Cure. 3 days = Hard Cure
* COARSE SALT / KOSHER SALT: 24 hours = Medium Cure, 36 hours will be between Medium and Hard Cure, 48 hours+ will be Hard Cure. Surface will be cured more (ie firmer, drier surface) than using Rock Salt because finer grains penetrate more. Highly recommend resting minimum 12, preferably 24 hours before serving - saltiness will distribute more evenly.
* Medium Cure (my preference) = surface is fairly firm and not too salty, inside is lightly cured, still moist (but not raw, it’s cured). Seasoned enough to eat slices plain.
* Hard Cure = surface is quite firm (like a soft jerky) and quite well seasoned, inside is slightly firmer and pretty well seasoned. Contrast between surface and inside more prominent. I find this a touch salty for my taste but is still way less salty than store bought.
3. Sugar, like salt, draws moisture from the flesh and cures it but makes it sweet rather than salty. Using normal sugar rather than superfine / caster sugar ensures that the salmon doesn't get too sweet (i.e. caster sugar penetrates salmon quicker). The right salt and sugar combination is key to controlling the saltiness of Gravlax while still achieving the "cured" effect and without making it too sweet!
4. Please ensure you use SASHIMI-GRADE salmon. I always ask, even if the sign says that! Nowadays in Australian coastal areas, sashimi-grade salmon is quite common at local fish mongers.
Skin-on salmon means that the skin side is cured slightly less, however, for me, I prefer skin-on for this exact reason plus it's easier to carve.
SMALLER FILLETS: The beauty of this recipe is that a little goes a long way! So you don't need to use a whole side of salmon, you can make this with a small fillet. However, if you get one smaller than 500g/1lb, then you'll need to increase the salt/sugar ratio to the weight of the salmon to ensure there's enough to cover the surface area. For a 300g/10oz piece, rather than using 150g/5oz combined salt/sugar, use around 210g/7oz (this is what I measured when I did a test using a smaller piece).
I don't recommend going smaller than 300g/10oz because the width of the salmon will become too narrow and it will probably end up too salty.
5. Rye bread is the classic type to serve with Gravlax but it suits any bread or plain crackers. While some recipes recommend Pumpernickel Bread, I personally find that the flavour overwhelms the salmon.
6. EXTRAS: Some Gravlax recipes use lemon. Just add the zest of 1 - 2 lemons to the salt cure. This recipe is a classic one that doesn't use zest.
7. STORAGE: With the 36 hour cure, this salmon keeps for 3 days. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
8. SERVINGS: A little goes a long way with this recipe! It will comfortable serve 10 people as a starter. That's generous!
9. Nutrition is difficult with homemade Gravlax because I have no way of determining how much salt is infused into the flesh. So I've used a store bought Gravlax nutrition which is no doubt saltier than this recipe makes!
10. Recipe adapted from salmon curing guidance courtesy of Chef Massimo Mele
. With my thanks for enduring my endless questions!!!