Solstice- or Vodka-Cured Lake Trout Gravlax
June 21st—aka the summer solstice—marks the longest day of the year, and we can’t think of a more appropriate way to spend it than checking out Michele Genest’s latest cookbook, The Boreal Feast. Set to be released on that very day, Genest puts her 20 years of experience living in the Yukon to use in this book, exploring how Northern cultures incorporate boreal ingredients into their food and sharing the personal stories behind some of her recipes.
The fact that the book is available on the longest day of summer also leaves us with no excuses for not having enough time to try one of her recipes out. Our suggestion? The Solstice- or Vodka-Cured Lake Trout Gravlax, which comes from the Summer Solstice Feast chapter of The Boreal Feast.
- Yield: 24 1-oz (30 g) servings
1 fillet of fresh lake trout, skin on, about 11⁄2 lbs (680 g)
3 Tbsp (45 mL) white sugar
2 Tbsp (30 mL) coarse salt
2 Tbsp (30 mL) Solstice Botanical Vodka, aquavit or vodka
A handful of fresh pasture sage (Artemisia frigida), or substitute the fresh herb of your choice—dill is traditional in Scandinavia
Start making the gravlax two to three days before you want to serve; it needs at least 24 hours to cure.
Note: opinions are mixed about whether or not to cure the fish under a weight, said to result in a firmer texture. I haven’t found it necessary. However, if in the process of removing pin bones from the fillet one has also removed small chunks of flesh, weighting the fish under a baking pan with a couple of cans on top can be useful in compacting the flesh. It is recommended that fish be frozen at -4F (-20C) for 24 hours before you make gravlax, in case there are any parasites present. Before starting, defrost the fish in the refrigerator.
Lay the fillet skin side down on a large piece of plastic wrap on a baking tray. Remove pin bones with kitchen tweezers or clean needle-nose pliers. Find the pin bones by running your finger down the fish’s middle, from head to stomach. The pin bones end at the stomach.
Combine sugar, salt and spirit and spread evenly over the fish, making sure the flesh is entirely covered. Lay the herbs thickly over top.
Wrap a sheet of plastic tightly over the fish, lay another piece of plastic over top, and wrap tightly again. Refrigerate on the baking tray for 24 to 48 hours, turning the fish every few hours to ensure even curing. The salt will draw moisture from the flesh, creating a brine in which the fish cures.
Taste-test after 24 hours. If the flesh is firm and the flavour is sweet–salty enough for your liking, rinse, pat dry and wrap in fresh plastic until you’re ready to serve. Otherwise, leave for another 24 hours, still turning periodically. Then rinse, pat dry and store. The fish will keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
To serve, slice thinly with a sharp knife held at a close angle to the fish. Arrange slices on a platter accompanied by a basket of Rye Flatbread and a bowl of crème fraîche.