You know lox, that salmon stuff with the cream cheese? Well, meet lox’s drunken, Scandinavian uncle, gravlax. Originally prepared by crusty Swedish and Norwegian fishermen who would dig “graves” in the sand and bury their fish to cure, gravlax is a tangy, spicy, dish totally appropriate for impressing the heck out of any party crowd (especially once they’ve had a drink or two). It’s made by curing salmon in a brine of sugar, salt, herbs, and booze, and traditionally served with mustard on hearty bread.
To give your gravlax a uniquely “D.C.” flair, we recommend using Embitterment Orange Bitters and Greenhat “Ginavit,” which is the 2014 Fall/Winter seasonal release from D.C. Distillers. Aged in apple brandy barrels, this gin is made to resemble Scandinavian “Akvavit,” which means “Water of Life” and is a fruit-based spirit often distilled using dill or caraway. The orange bitters give the brine a fruity energy, while the Ginavit infuses the entire marinade with a junipery, spice-scented depth.
- 1.5 tsp Embitterment Orange Bitters
- 2 oz Greenhat Gin (Use “Ginavit” if you can find it!)
- 1/4 cup each sugar and salt
- 1 1/4 cups water
- Zest of a lemon
- 1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 lb fresh salmon
- Combine the water, sugar, salt, gin, and bitters. Stir until the ingredients have dissolved and integrated.
- Slice the salmon into thin strips. If you’ve bought a piece with the skin on it, cut almost all the way through the meat, but leave each ribbon attached to the underlying skin (see picture). It’s easier to handle this way.
- Pour the brine over the salmon, then sprinkle the dill and lemon zest on top. Make sure the brine, dill, and lemon zest get worked into the folds between the slices if you’ve left the meat connected to the skin. Otherwise, simply ensure that the ingredients are equally distributed.
- Cover and allow to cure in the refrigerator for anywhere between a few hours to overnight, depending on how strong you want the end result to be.
- After curing, remove the salmon from the brine and allow it to dry (NOTE: you will not like how this dish tastes if you consume it straight out of the brine). Serve chilled with spicy mustard on hearty bread and garnish with more fresh dill and/or creme fraiche.