A Cure for the Uncommon Salmon


by Cathy Erway

What a luxurious working-day lunch. It’s casual and uncomplicated to make — an open-faced sandwich — but on top of this bread lies slices of home-cured wild-caught red Alaska salmon surrounded by jewels from the garden. Funny to think that cured salmon (not smoked, but similar in texture and taste, sans smokiness) was once a common luncheon meat for the working man before it became a delicacy. It’s produced through a quick and easy process of rubbing salt, sugar and other seasonings into the fish, and letting it draw out moisture over a couple days. So, fishermen of Scandinavia, or Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, would use this method to make their fresh catches keep longer over time. Overfishing led to the rarity of this fish and now most salmon is farmed (and, to the connoisseur, tastes nothing like its wild brethren). Now, wild-caught salmon from the only sustainable fishery left in the world, Alaska, commands more than tenderloin on the market. So how did I get my hands on this stuff, and why am I sharing it with everyone for lunch? I caught wind of a wild-caught Alaskan salmon CSA, and signed up as soon as I could.

Citrus-Cured Salmon 
(adapted from The Scandinavian Cookbook)

Because the sugar and salt was weighed in grams in the book, I went through a confusing process of conversion for this that I can now no longer remember. But it worked, and this is the simplified (in cups) solution.

1 lb piece of salmon fillet (preferably wild-caught Alaskan red) 
1/4 cup salt 
1/4 cup sugar 
zest of 1 lemon 
zest of 1 orange

Feel the salmon for any pin bones and carefully remove with tweezers. Coat the fleshy side (not the skin) with the zest. Combine the salt and sugar in a bowl and pour over the fillet. Cover in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2 1/2-3 days. Drain juices and rinse off the cure. Pat dry with paper towels. Enjoy. Can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks

Posted in Recipes, Seafood


  1. Anonymous said...

    This sounds too easy AND delicious not to give it a try! Just tried preserving fresh tuna, and it was really good!

  2. Anonymous said...

    For the salt — is this Kosher or table? Big difference in qty when measuring…

  3. Anonymous said...

    I’m just a little ticked off by the comment that the Alaska fishery is the ONLY sustainable fishery in the world. Excuse me, but what is the BC fishing industry? Chopped liver? (so to speak!) Even as I write, the Fraser River is churning with sockeye salmon, the largest run in nearly a century. Perhaps the best salmon in the world is currently fetching $5 a pound in Vancouver and environs, just slightly more than hamburger. Rant over – I must now go slow-smoke about 15 lbs. of sockeye.

  4. Seattle Local Food said...

    Lovely picture! I’ve been doing gravlax style cured salmon for a while, with dill and black pepper as well as the sugar and salt. I love the idea of citrus peel, though, and think I’ll experiment with that and other flavors in my next batch.

  5. An Nguyen said...

    Love the Mad Men shoutout!

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