Even when life gets crazy, you still have to eat (hence all the food-focused posts lately). Today’s recipe is courtesy of my second mom, who taught me a bunch of my cooking and baking skills, and makes some of my absolute favorite recipes.
This one is super simple, and the best part is you don’t actually have to cook anything! As a disclaimer, I realize that salmon is a bit of a pricy ingredient, especially for budget-mindful emerging adults. But the rest of the recipe is inexpensive, and if you keep an eye out for sales — or shop at cheaper places like Costco — it can still be a cost-effective way to eat healthy. On the health note, whenever you can, try to buy wild-caught salmon that doesn’t have color added (and hasn’t been frozen if available). Farm-raised salmon are often less healthy, and the farms frequently have bad environmental impacts.
Also general reminders to practice food safety with meats, including washing your hands with soap before and after handling it, and storing it in the fridge at all times.
With all that said, let’s dive in!
- 1.5 lbs. raw salmon (it’s okay if it has skin, but boneless is better)
- 1/2 cup pickling salt (if you can’t find pickling salt, it’s okay to use sea salt or kosher salt that has no additives or anti-caking agents)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke
- Rinse off the salmon, and pluck out any bones if it has them (a small pair of pliers is actually best for this, check out how here). I was under the false impression that I needed to remove the skin too, but you can avoid the time and hassle I spent and leave it on until later.
- Mix together the pickling salt and sugar in a bowl.
- Rub the mixture all over the salmon, and put the salmon in a sealed container with any extra mix. I used a *super fancy* gallon Ziploc bag, but you can also use a baking dish and saran wrap. It just needs to have a tight seal.
- Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. I’d recommend somewhere in the 36-hour zone, but 24 is the minimum and you can always go 48 to play it safe. This process basically cures it, and the salt and sugar sink into the meat making a cool chemical reaction that means you don’t have to cook it.
- After salmon has cured, take it out of the fridge and rinse well. (Pro tip: If you left the skin on til now, you should be able to pull it off at this point.)
- Rub 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke over fish, and place it in a clean sealed container. (Note: There are other ways to smoke it, but I promise this one is the easiest. Google the fancy ones if you feel like.)
- Refrigerate for another 24 hours, then remove and rinse thoroughly.
Cost varies*, makes about 6 servings
*Cost mostly depends on how much the salmon costs. I got mine on sale for $8/lb., which means I spent about $12 on the salmon. I also had to buy the pickling salt and liquid smoke, but each ingredient will last me several more uses. Total ingredients used besides the salmon cost about $2, and with the salmon it was about $14.
I’ve been adding the smoked salmon to my morning bagel for bagel and lox, but you can also have it with a sandwich, in a salad, or solo with other side dishes!
Things I’d change next time: I really wish I’d bought boneless salmon, and that I hadn’t tried to filet it to remove the skin before curing it. I also think I may have left it in the liquid smoke a bit too long, but overall I’m happy with the first effort.