Gravlax with Dill Pollen

Gravlax with Dill Pollen
Gravlax with Dill Pollen

Gravlax, a type of cured salmon traditionally flavored with abundant amounts of dill, is a Scandinavian recipe that dates back to 14th-century Sweden. Originally employed as a means to preserve salmon before refrigeration was ever an option, first-generation gravlax was seasoned with a cure of salt and sugar and then buried deep in the sand for several months. This caused a bit of fermentation to occur, creating a much more pungent product than we know today. Modern versions of gravlax skip the fermentation in favor of a shorter, more simple, flavorful cure.

Since salmon historically goes hand-in-hand with dill, we thought gravlax would be the perfect canvas to use for Dill Pollen. Bright and sweet and wildly herbaceous, Dill Pollen embodies the entire essence of dill, encapsulating the herb with the sunny breezes of the hillside on which it was grown. It takes the verdant flavor of dill and turns it up a notch; pairing it with the buttery, fatty salmon is a master class in complementary contrasts.

We chose sockeye salmon to make our Gravlax with Dill Pollen. Sockeye salmon is a little bit smaller than other types of salmon, with brilliant, red-orange flesh. It’s also got a bit less fat than most commercial salmon. The shimmery red flesh of the sockeye is still tender and rich and a bit oily, but it doesn’t have the white striations that we’ve come to associate with that fish. The smaller size of the fish means it produces smaller filets, and that translates into a shorter curing period. Gravlax recipes often call for fish to cure for upwards to 72 hours; ours was ready to eat in half that time. To be clear, this recipe will require approximately 36 hours to cure. 

This is a no-cook dish, crudo-style dish, since you’re relying on the cure to “cook” the fish in your refrigerator. All it requires is adequate space to work and the ability to change its wrapping once. We rubbed some tequila into the salmon to firm up the flesh a little bit and give it a hint of a kick, but you can use whatever alcohol you have on hand, or do without it altogether. Dress it in the cure—a sweet and salty, balanced mix of Dill Pollen, Kosher Salt, Vermont Maple Sugar, and Ground White Pepper—and wrap it in cheesecloth and plastic wrap. Then put it in your fridge and weight it down with whatever is on hand. You can place full cans, water bottles, a heavy frying pan, or anything else that will create even pressure, on the fish. Close the door, and leave it alone for 12 hours. Don’t touch it, don’t peek at it, just let dill, salt, and gravity do their jobs. After 12 hours, move the salmon and dill to a clean piece of cheesecloth and wrap with fresh plastic wrap, and leave it alone for another 24 hours.

When it’s ready the flesh will be nice and firm, and a little salty, and full of the bracing flavor of Dill Pollen. Larger pieces of fish will take longer, so if you’re looking to prepare Gravlax within a 36-hour window, use the filet size we recommend here. To serve, keep the salmon skin-side down. Get a very sharp knife and carve thin slices of salmon off the skin. Drape on toast points with a dollop of Dijon mustard sauce and your favorite accompaniments, like cucumbers, capers, or red onions. It will only stay for a few days in your fridge once it’s ready to eat, so make sure you invite plenty of friends and family to your house and have an unforgettable luxury dish that only looks difficult to make.

 Print Recipe

Prep Time: 20 min.
Cooking Time: 0 min.
Cuisine: American

1. Combine Dill Pollen, Kosher Salt, Vermont Maple Sugar, and Ground White Pepper.

2. Rinse and then dry Sockeye Salmon. Sprinkle tequila over the salmon, flesh side only, and then thoroughly coat both sides with the Dill Pollen cure.

3. Spread out cheesecloth and place ½ of the fresh dill in the middle. Place the salmon on the dill and then add the other half of the dill on top of the salmon. Wrap in the cheesecloth and then in plastic wrap.

4. Set the salmon on a pan and weigh it down with a cast iron skillet, bricks, tomato cans, or whatever is available.

5. Refrigerate for 12 hours, then unwrap the salmon and discard juices.

6. Flip the salmon and rewrap with new cheesecloth and plastic wrap. Weigh down again and refrigerate for 24 hours.

7. Dill Pollen Gravlax is ready to eat. Slice very thinly and serve with assorted sides like pumpernickel toast points, cucumber, crackers, bagel and cream cheese, red onion, capers, or lemon.