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Curing fish with smoke and salt is a method as old as time, and many cultures have their variations. While there are countless ways to do it, the classic deli staples of “Lox,” Gravlax, and Nova salmon, are among the most popular. Whereas the Scandinavian Gravlax, Jewish Lox, and similar preparations are only salt-cured, Nova adds the element of smoke. While they certainly have their differences in flavor and texture, most people refer to salt-cured salmon as Lox whether it’s smoked or not. Many of us, particularly of Jewish heritage, grew up on these salt-cured salmon fillets, sliced thin and usually served on a bagel with cream cheese, red onion, and capers. 

But you don’t need to go to the deli to get your fix of bagels and lox. Cured salmon and even trout is easy, and cheaper, to make with fish you’ve caught yourself. Some curing methods use a semi-dry cure of granulated salt and sugar which yields a firmer, drier flesh, while others use a wet-brine saltwater solution. 

If you’re going to smoke the fish, low-temperature cold smoking is best, as hot smoking cooks the flesh and changes the flavor and silky texture. A fatty salmon will generally have a more buttery texture than something like a lean trout, but both are equally delicious and any orange-fleshed salmonid should work just fine. Whatever the specific preparation, curing is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy your catch. 

A buddy got me hooked on curing lake trout fillets as they have great natural oils and are abundant in my local waters. Instead of picking a specific method, I do a mashup of common techniques. While it may not be the most traditional, this cured lake trout lox is a cheap and foolproof way to enjoy cured fish at home. 

Ingredients

  • 1 large trout or salmon fillet
  • 1 bunch scallions, rough cut
  • 1 orange, rough cut
  • 1 lemon, rough cut
  • 1 package pickling spices
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • ½ cup bourbon or other liquor
  • Wood chips

Directions

  1. Clean and fillet a trout or salmon. Remove any fins, excess fat, and bones. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl add roughly chopped scallion, orange, and lemon, a package of pickling spices, as well as two cups each of salt and both white and brown sugar. Mix everything together thoroughly.  
  3. Lay several sheets of plastic wrap flat on a table, then spread a few handfuls of the curing mix on the wrap. 
  4. Place the fillet on the pile, then massage in a few tablespoons of bourbon or other liquor  into the flesh.
  5. Cover the fillet completely in the remaining cure mixture and tightly wrap everything in plastic.
  6. Place the wrapped fillet in a deep pan and place a sheet tray with some sort of weight on top. 
  7. Refrigerate for one to two full days. 
  8. Remove the fillet from the wrap and rinse it thoroughly in cold water to remove the cure, then air dry. At this point, the Lox is ready to eat. 

Read Next: Vintage Recipe: Canadian Air Force Smoked Salmon

How to Cold Smoke Cured Salmon or Trout With a Smoke Gun

Cold smoking is an optional step that can be done in different ways depending on what tools you have available. We used a smoke gun, but conventional smokers work just fine, you’ll just want to keep the temperature below 80 degrees F. The following steps assume you are using a smoke gun. 

  1. Place the cured fillet in a vacuum-seal bag and seal both ends. Poke a small hole in each end and insert the smoke gun tube in one. 
  2. Add your favorite flavor of wood chips to the smoke gun and smoke for roughly thirty minutes. Replace the chips as needed. 
  3. Thinly slice the cured fillet and serve it on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, red onion, and capers.

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