Authentic gravadlax – au Dad

22:44

This is probably the best thing you can put on top of a piece of butter smeared sour dough rye bread bar only salt cured whitefish which is even better. Husband is not as enamoured – he prefers his fish cooked or at least smoked. Maybe the slimy texture puts him off or the idea of er... raw fish. Who knows.


The name Gravadlax or Gravlax is Swedish, grav meaning a grave or the verb grava meaning burying. In the olden days the Swedish fishermen Johan Andersson, Anders Andersson, Anders Johansson och Johan Johansson would cover their booty with salt and bury it in sand for a few days before digging it out to eat with their Wasa knäckebröd.

Finnish style Gravadlax with red peppercorns and dill


The Finnish word is Graavilohi – the word graavi is not really Finnish. It just sailed across the Gulf of Bothnia to our shores and we kept it unlike most Swedish things that try to cross that water. Now we use it as a synonym for salt curing.

I’ve had a lot of gravadlax in my life, but the best is done by my dad. This is no unfounded daughterly sentimentality, but it really is flippin’ awesome. He’s got years of experience of sprinkling exactly the right amounts of the right things on it.  I also think he always buys very good quality salmon. He’s not particularly free with his money, more on the tight side, once refusing to buy mum (who says she is like the Queen and doesn’t like to carry money) an expensive Biotherm wrinkle cream with the result that mum’s life was “in ruins” until they found a compromise in a more reasonably priced Vichy-product. But gravadlax is dad’s passion. Gravadlax, philately and chopping wood.

That reminds me of dad’s triathlon. He always challenged my two older brothers to his summer triathlon of swimming, darts and chemistry because he could beat them in those three activities. I am unclear on how the chemistry competition was organised.  

I often do my gravadlax in the freezer because I’m not sure of the parasite situation in all the fish that I buy. Heat kills them but salt doesn’t. So I add the cognac, salt, sugar, dill and pink peppercorns, wrap the salmon tightly and freeze it. I think the recommendation is several days, 5-7.  And when you want it you just defrost it in fridge salt side up for 24 hours, no weights on top needed. While it slowly defrosts it cures and is ready to eat and worm-free. Yammy!

But if need for gravadlax is very immediate I just put it in the fridge for about 24 hours salt side up and it's done, no need for several days of curing.

Finnish style Gravadlax with red peppercorns and dill

Authentic Finnish Gravadlax with red peppercorns, dill and cognac recipe


1 kg Side of salmon
2-3 tbsp Cognac
2-3 tbsp Coarse seasalt
1-2 tsp Sugar
Fresh dill (freely)
1 tbsp Pink peppercorns


Place the salmon skin side down on a piece of greaseproof paper. Pick out any bones and cut any extra fat off, massage the salmon with the cognac, sprinkle the sugar and sea salt on top.  Add the pink peppercorns and chopped fresh dill on top. Wrap it tightly in the greaseproof paper. Place in the freezer for minimum 5-7 days, it stays good for longer. Take it out to slowly defrost and cure in the fridge salt side up for 24 hours. Eat with boiled new potatoes or rye bread and fresh dill.

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