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Learn How to Make Delicious Salmon Lox at Home! SausageMania will reveal all the closely-held secrets for making perfect lox, secrets that you've not found elsewhere on the Web, or otherwise you wouldn't be reading this page!

Lox (or lachs) is salt-cured salmon that is essentially raw, never having been raised to more than 85° F. during processing. Lox recipes are difficult to find, as Lox Makers tend to guard them as jealously as the Masons have guarded their secret rites for centuries. One reason for such secrecy is to keep prices high. But here on LoxMania, all is revealed! LoxMania'sLox Recipe been tried and tested for over twenty years!

Most Commerical Lox is made from farmed salmon raised in Norwegian fjords. Wild salmon are fast-swimming Muscle Fish: they swim thousands of miles back and forth across oceans, some for as long as seven years, before returning to their natal rivers and streams. Their constant, highly-charged rapacious activity, plus their natural diet of wild, free-swimming baitfish, confer a unique flavor, color, texture and taste to their meat.

Farmed Salmon, on the other hand, are penned up in aquatic cages of plastic mesh, get essentially no exercise and are fed pellets of processed fish meal and fish oil extracted from bottom feeders, so the meat of farmed salmon is soft, pale and bland: farmed salmon are the couch potatoes of the salmon world — flabby, dull and boring. In Alaska we refer to them as MacSalmon.

SausageMania will show you how to make Wild Salmon Lox. Yes, you can use farmed salmon if you cannot get hold of wild, but that option is simply not available to us in Alaska, where the sale of farmed salmon is illegal. Consequently, here in Alaska we must settle for wild salmon! >Sob!<

[NOTE: A NEW Lox Making Photo Tutorial can be found HERE.]

Some lox is smoked and some lox is treated with dill and other herbs (so-called gravadlax or gravlax). The recipe given here is for very lightly smoked lox made of Alaska Silver salmon: the only ingredients are the salmon itself, salt, brown sugar and dark rum. The challenging steps here are in brining and "freshening" the product to the right degree of saltiness, rehydration and consistency. None of the other steps has to be perfect.

• There are five species of Alaska salmon: King (Chinook), Silver (Coho), Red (Sockeye), Pink (Humpy) and Chum (Dog).* King salmon is the oiliest, and makes the best best lox. You can make lox from the other species as well, but, if you compare them, you will find that King Salmon Lox is the best in terms of flavor and "sliceability."

*Some purists claim there is a sixth species, steelhead trout, another salmonid... but we shall not argue the point here.

King Salmon in Cooler

100 lbs of King Salmon, Right Off The Boat — Five Smallish Fish. These were caught in a set net in the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet, Anchorage. They still had sea lice on them, indicating that they had not entered fresh water. Their quality starts to decline as soon as they leave salt water and head towards their spawning grounds. By the time they spawn, they have already begun to decompose.

• Sliceability is a key feature of lox. If the product is improperly processed, it will "smear" when you try to slice it. Properly processed lox can be sliced so thin that you can read through it.

• First of all you need fresh fish, not thawed-out frozen fish, whose flesh is somewhat broken down by the freeze-thaw cycle. But if you cannot get fresh, you'll have to make do with frozen, as it's better than nothing.

• There are six main steps in making lox:

1. Filleting the salmon, cutting into serving size pieces and scoring the skin

2. Dry salting (12 hours)

3. Brining (12-24 hours, depending on thickness of the salmon fillets) Critical step!!!

4. Freshening (1-3 hours depending on thickness of the salmon fillets) Critical step!!!

5. "Painting" with a rum and brown sugar mix and drying(8-10 hours).

6. Smoking (1 hour or less)

• Fillet the salmon, but leave the skin side intact. Cut into serving size pieces.

• Score the skin side with a razor blade in parallel cuts (to allow the salt-sugar mix to be absorbed). Don't cut the flesh — only the skin!

Scored Salmion Fillets

Scored King Salmon Fillets

• Prepare a dry mix
in the proportion of 3 parts coarse salt to 4 parts brown sugar. Avoid iodized salt.

• Sprinkle a layer of the salt-sugar mix on the bottom of a glass/plastic/stainless steel/porcelain tray or bin (never aluminum).

• Make a layer
of the filleted pieces, cover with the salt-sugar mix, put another layer on, and so forth, until the bin/tray is filled. Put more mix on the thicker pieces, less on the thinner pieces. Sorry... can't quantify any better than this. It's just a matter of learning.... I call it "differential salting."

King Salmon Fillets in Bin

King Salmon Fillets in Salt-Sugar Mix

• Let the bin sit for 12 hours. Lots of syrupy liquid will appear (as the salt and sugar draw water from the fish). As the salt and sugar pretty much stop any decomposition, the bin need not be refrigerated, but try to keep it in a cool, shady place.

Prepare a brine solution by mixing about 5-1/4 lbs. of coarse salt to two gallons of water. A clean 5-gallon plastic bucket is ideal. Technically speaking, you want a 90% "salinometer brine," to be exact, as different salts produce different salinity, weight for weight. They shouldn't, if they are pure NaCl, but they do. So you might want to invest in a salinometer or salometer. You can get one from Amazon.com for about $25.00, free delivery.

A Salometer

A Salometer or Salinometer. A useful tool for lox making (also good if you are brining hams).

Remove the pieces and briskly rinse off any salt-sugar mix that remains with cold running water.

Add the pieces to the brine solution and let sit for 12 hours. Pieces more than an inch thick need 18-24 hours. Does not need refrigeration. Brining draws water from the fish as it cures the salmon fillets. Lox is a cured food product and must never be heated. Brining is a critical step of the process!

King Salmon Fillets in Brine

King Salmon Fillets in Brine Solution

• Empty the brine from the bucket and place a garden hose at the bottom of the bucket. For details, please go to the LoxMania Photo Tutorial. Slowly run cold water through the hose, causing the bucket to overflow. This will begin to desalt, or "freshen" the fish. Freshening is also a critical step! After an hour, remove one of the thinner pieces, dry it off, test it for "sliceability" and taste it to make sure sufficient salt has been removed. This is strictly a matter of judgment! Thicker pieces may take two or three hours to freshen. If you over-freshen, the fish will become pale and waterlogged and those pieces will be ruined.

• As you remove the pieces,
place them skin side down, on a large towel on a table.

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Drying the King Salmon Fillets

• Prepare a syrup of brown sugar and dark rum......
say, two pounds of sugar to a fifth of rum..... pretty thick.... you may have to heat it to dissolve the sugar. Use a full-bodied, dark rum such as Myers or Coruba.

• Brush the syrup onto each piece.
Set a fan at the end of the table where the fish is laid out. As the syrup is absorbed, brush on a new layer. Do this for 5-6 hours until a pellicle (or "skin") of syrup forms on the surface of the fish.

Painting the King Salmon Fillets

• Then, put the pieces in a smoker, and lightly smoke for about 30-60 minutes.... with hickory, alder, cherry, apple.... anything but mesquite. Do not let the temperature of the product rise above 85° F., or those pieces will be ruined!

Smoking King Salmon Fillets

Liquid Smoke

A Big No-No: Liquid Smoke. Your Salmon Deserves REAL Smoke!

• Remove the pieces from the smoker, pack and freeze.

Finished King Salmon Lox Packed With Fresh Dill

The Final Product, King Salmon Lox, vacuum-packed with fresh dill and ready to eat or freeze.

• OPTIONAL STEP: Before packing, you may wish to remove the pin bones from each piece with a needle-nose pliers. The bones are easy to spot, because the flesh around them will have shrunk down. They pull out easily. Their removal makes slicing the lox a bit easier, although the pin bones are very fine and will slice through if you leave them in. For "presentation lox" I always remove the pin bones, but for our family's own consumption, I leave them in because their removal is time-consuming.

• NOTE: Unlike frozen fresh fish, which, even when vacuum-packed, goes "off" in six months at the most, frozen, vacuum-packed lox will endure for up to three years in a freezer that holds temperatures at or below 0° F.

More on Alaska Salmon

Alaska Salmon, of which there are 5-1/2 species, comprise one of the most valuable fishery resources of the United States. The "1/2" species refers to steelhead trout, which are similar to Atlantic salmon.

Chinook or King: Soft in texture, very rich in oil, and separates into large flakes, making it excellent for salads and recipes calling for large pieces. "Small" kings are 20 lbs, 30 lb kings are common. One sub-species of King, that return to the Kenai River, can be gigantic: the record stands at 97 lbs!

Sockeye or Red: Has deep red meat, is of firm texture, and breaks into smaller flakes, making it attractive for hot dishes and salads.

Coho or Silver: Is large-flaked, a lighter red than sockeye, and is good in all dishes. Excellent for Lox, as its fat content is second only to Kings.

Pink or Humpy: Smallest and least interesting of the species; light pink flesh, extensively used for canning.

Chum or Dog: Is large-flaked, pearly-pink in color, low in oil, less strongly-flavored than the other four species and is especially suitable for cooked dishes where color is not important. Its large, pale eggs are considered by some to be the best for making salmon caviar ("Keta Caviar").

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