How to Cure Wild-Caught Trout at Camp

Turn your catch into a delicious and easy breakfast

bagels with fillets of rainbow trout
Home-cured fish makes an ideal morning meal at camp.Roscoe Betsill / Food and Prop Styling

Often while fishing at a cabin, I eat way too much trout cooked over fire or cast iron,” says Doug ­Adams, chef at Bullard restaurant in Portland, Oregon.

“I love it, but then all I have for breakfast before heading to the river is black coffee. This has a couple of results: an early lunch when I should still be on the river, or a few beers catching up way too quickly in midafternoon.”

The solution Adams devised for his morning deprivation: curing the trout he’s caught with a salt, sugar, and dill rub using the ancient Scandinavian method for gravlax.

“I can carry it in the truck and eat it on a ­bagel for a light breakfast,” he says. “And because it’s cured, I can bring the trout back home to enjoy for a few days after the trip is over.” This recipe works best with larger trout that have inch-thick fillets. Go light on the cure and the curing time for smaller trout.

Ingredients | Serves 4

  • 4–6 trout fillets, pin bones removed
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 bunch dill, stems removed
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. vodka or gin for
  • Washing cure
filleted rainbow trout with citrus and herb ingredients
Trout Season: Adjust the amount of cure, and the curing time, depending on the thickness of your fillets.Roscoe Betsill / Food and Prop Styling

Directions

  1. Blend the sugar, salt, dill, and orange and lemon zest with a mortar and pestle, and process until green in color and very aromatic.
  2. Place the trout fillets on a sheet pan, skin side down, and season lightly with the cure, making sure to gently rub it into all surfaces. Depending on the size of the fish, you may have extra. Trout is very delicate in flavor, so it is important to not overcure the fillets.
  3. Place a length of parchment or wax paper over the fillets. Lay another pan or a cutting board large enough to cover over the trout, and then place some weight on top of it to gently push the moisture from the fish without smashing it. Two or three cans of beans should suffice. Place in the refrigerator.
  4. Start checking the fish after 12 hours. The meat should be slightly firm, enough to withstand thin slicing. Let the curing process go longer if need be, but not more than 24 hours.
  5. Remove the trout fillets from the pan. Dip a brush or ­paper towel into the vodka or gin, and use it to gently wipe off the cure.
  6. To serve, remove the skin and slice the cured trout as thin as possible. Pile the slices atop crackers or add to a bagel with cream cheese. The trout will keep, refrigerated, for a week or more.

Drink Pairing: The Spirit of the Stream

When it comes to cured fish, the traditional drink to sip on the side is a shot (or coffee mug) of ice-cold aquavit.

Break out some aquavit. This Scandanavian spirit, distilled like gin but steeped with different botanicals, is increasingly showing up on American store shelves, and is the perfect match for cured fish. Linie, from Norway, is the most widely distributed brand and packs a mellow caraway flavor. But keep an eye out for aquavits from American micro-distillers, such as Montana’s Skadi (named for the Norse goddess of bowhunting) or the stellar dill aquavit from Wisconsin’s Gamle Ode.

Drink it neat or ice-cold or, to ward off a streamside chill, do as the Danes do: Drop a coin into a coffee mug, add just enough coffee to cover the coin, and then add aquavit until you can see the coin again.