I adore smoked salmon. But in my book, home-cured salmon beats any smoked salmon, mass-cured salmon or gravadlax hands down.
Being a lover of all things beetroot, there was no doubt in my mind that my next home-cure would be a beetroot version. Who can resist those deep-ruby colours, with that beautiful salmon pink still shining through?
This cured salmon is gorgeous simply served with some soda bread and dollop of creme fraiche. Or you could serve it with my refreshing beetroot and apple tartare, swapping the apple for pomegranate, if you want to continue the ruby theme.
But I admittedly went whole hog fancy-pants with my accompaniments and plating this time.
You may have noticed I am throwing pomegranate into and onto pretty much anything these days. Apart from their superfood anti-oxidant properties and the fact they taste amazing, I adore the way they “pop” in your mouth and deliver an instant tangy fruit burst.
My horseradish cream works great here, but I swapped vodka for gin on this occasion. Both work and both are optional.
The 36 to 48 hours curing process gives the salmon a fairly firm texture. But there’s nothing you need to do between covering the salmon in its cure to the rinsing once it’s done its time. All the accompaniments can also be made in advance, so this is the perfect prepare-ahead recipe for picnics, potlucks and the seasonal festive dinner table. Serve a green salad and some crusty read on the side for the perfect light lunch.
And yes, the salmon is essentially not cooked other than by its cure. So you need the freshest most tender cut you can find. And yes, the curing process is long. You could freeze the salmon before or after curing, if you are nervous about cured raw fish.
Beetroot and Gin Cured Salmon (serves 8-10 – GF DF RSF LC)
500 gr salmon fillet or loin, preferably in one piece
2-3 large raw beetroot
a few sprigs of tarragon
a few sprigs of thyme
1 tsp juniper berries, slightly crushed
zest of 2 lemons or 2 limes
3 tbsp rock salt
3 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
100 ml gin or vodka (optional)
If you have a juicer, juice the beetroot. Set the juice aside and use the pulp for the cure. Else, grate the beetroot.
Mix together the grated beetroot or pulp, the citrus zest, salt, sugar, spices and vodka. If you used the pulp and the cure appears very dry, add a little beetroot juice to moisten.
Add the cure either to a large ziplock bag or a large non-reactive container. Add the salmon and toss it around in the cure. If using a ziplock bag, close the bag and massage the cure into and all around the salmon to ensure it is well covered. If using a container, seal it once you are sure the salmon is well covered.
Set into the fridge for 36-48 hours, turning the salmon in the cure occasionally.
When time is up, rinse the cure from the salmon and pat the salmon dry with a cloth or kitchenroll. You can keep the salmon in the fridge like this in a container or clingfilm for a couple of days if needed. It can also be frozen at this point.
When ready to serve, cut the salmon into thin slices and serve with the accompaniments. It’s nice to roll some of the salmon slices into tiny roses for presentation. Others can be draped as they fall onto the plate.
1 portion of horseradish cream, replacing the vodka with gin
1 portion of beetroot tartare replacing the apple with the seeds of 1-2 fresh pomegranates; or the following beetroot elements:
- Quick pickled beetroot: wafer-thin slices of raw beetroot soaked in a sweet-and-sour mixture of balsamic vinegar (white or red) and a little unrefined caster sugar or honey for at least an hour. I used a candy beetroot in pickled in white balsamic vinegar for colour contrast with the traditional ruby red of the rest of the beetroot elements.
- Wafer-thin slices and cubes of cooked beetroot. I used half of one I kept aside from the tartare I made for a previous incarnation of this recipe.
- Beetroot juice, heavily reduced with some balsamic vinegar, shallots, fresh thyme and tarragon, then thickened with a tiny bit of Maizena or agar-agar. Else a little balsamic glaze, home-made or shop-bought
micro-herbs or micro-salad leaves