Curing Part 3: Your very own smoked salmon-ish.

And then I leave off my curing series without following up to it.

No, that’s true. I’ve been meaning to continue on the curing series but the past one week has been very hectic. I have been getting ready for a working trip to India, and where India is concerned, my concentration is at 100% on India.

But it did not mean I’ve forgotten my intentions to blog about my experiments. Heh.

In the second part of my curing blog entry, I blogged about the dozen of problems faced with curing and I decided to work off two things: beef and salmon. The salmon was a real success and so hopefully it’ll distract people from my uh…interesting results with beef bacon.

You have to pardon the pictures, my camera is busted and I’m using my useless Nnokia.

The salmon was really easy to do. We grabbed the salmon from the frozen section in Cold Storage, dusted it with a combination of salt, sugar and pepper. I only had about 200 grams of salmon, so I halved the recipe by Chef John.

Real gravadlox actually has lots of dill, but I was too impatient (and a little broke after  spending on the ingredients for curing) to actually hunt them down. But you can get them from any reputable supermarket.

There are some things worth noting though when I did this experiment. Use flaky salt as opposed to fine table salt. I’ve once used normal table salt in another salting experiment (it was an experiment that went horribly wrong, that resulted in everyone having to eat out for dinner) and found it too harsh and salty. Table salt is too fine and makes it difficult to spread evenly compared to sea salt or flaky salt. What you’re going to end up with is spots of uber-saltiness and some parts untouched by salt.

Unfortunately sea salt is ridiculously expensive so try and find Morton’s kosher salt. I paid RM 14 for 1.2kgs of salt at Jaya Grocer. Yes, stupidly expensive compared to table salt but well worth it. The other problem you’re going to find is that Jaya Grocer is manic when it comes to stocking. I haven’t seen Morton’s sea salt in a good few months but keep trying your luck. Cold Storage stocks Maldon but Maldon will set you back RM 20 for 200grams I think, but you only need a tablespoon for 200 grams of salmon.

I’ve yet to experiment using local sea salt and smashing it up myself – but will try one of these days. I’m unconvinced at this point since it’s not flaky like kosher salt and it might lead to the same problems as table salt has given.

Secondly, the experiment requires cheese cloth. Cheese cloth is impossible to find BUT I found on a Malaysian forum that you can use nappy cloth. Nappy cloth is expensive (RM 20 for a packet!) unless you’re a mum who has plenty of unused diapers (eww, used diapers) to spare, I don’t find it practical. In this case, I used the Chinese herbal soup cloth that you can find in Daiso or PJ old town (about RM 3 for 2 bags). It’s a little bit rougher than nappies but it’s just as fine and does a good enough job.

I was bloody impatient to try the salmon out after I’ve put it in for curing. On the day it was ready, I was at a very important doa selamat and despite the severity of the situation, all I could think about was rushing home and eating the salmon. When I took it out, it felt firm just as Chef John said it would be. Rinsed through it and then took a first slice.

I’m not going to lie to you and say it was heavenly. More like it was salty to the high heavens. But a few slices in and it was so, so good. It was already midnight when we unwrapped the salmon and the two of us could not stop munching on the salmon.

The next day I had it for breakfast. Simple toast, with cream cheese and a few slices of gravadlox. So good that I took a picture of it and MMSed it to the husband who got quite jealous.

I have however, learnt a few things. Firstly, if you’re hoping to save money on smoked salmon this way – don’t bother. You can purchase smoked salmon for about RM 15 per 100 grams (cheaper if you buy in bulk) in places like Jaya Grocer and Cold Storage. I paid RM 20 for 200 grams, so you’re only making a savings of RM 10. Worth it? Well, it depends. Certainly, this isn’t really smoked but just cured. Similar texture and flavour, just missing the nice smokey flavour profile that you get with professional smoked salmon.

Secondly, I would buy the fresh salmon on the counter as opposed to the frozen salmon. I’ve found each time I buy frozen fish from Cold Storage, it has a slight rubbery texture. It could just be me however, so I will experiment again soon. The next time it’ll be with salmon from the sashimi counter. A bit more expensive but probably better tasting.

Will I do this again? Why yes! It’s really satisfying to have your own smoked salmon. I’m a little addicted to curing now, and have already in my mind, thinking of ways to cure other types of fish like the humble tenggiri (mackerel), heck, and even investing in a barbecue set to do proper smoking.

But of course, this depends on whether my beef bacon experiment works….

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