This recipe may sound like a lot of work, but curing your own salmon is much easier than you think. You do need to plan ahead, as the flavours need about two days to sink into the salmon properly, but it’s worth the wait.
You’ll only spend about 20 minutes doing the actual curing, and you’ll end up with a delicate pink gravadlax which tastes impressive. Although curing is easy, it is important to follow the measurements, so try to get a side of salmon as close as possible to the weight I’ve suggested here.
For the first cure, blitz the beetroots, orange and lemon zest, and bashed juniper berries in a food processor until you get a fairly smooth paste. Transfer this to a bowl and stir in the rock salt and sugar. Pour in the gin and give it a good mix.
Lay the side of salmon skin-side down on a large baking tray and slowly pour over the beetroot cure. Use a spatula to spread it all over the salmon flesh. Once it is all well covered, wrap the salmon in a double layer of greaseproof paper then wrap it tightly with cling film and place it in the fridge for 24 hours.
The next day, take the salmon out of the fridge and carefully unwrap it so you can rinse off the cure. Either use 100ml of cold water or gin. Hold the salmon over a baking tray and pour a splash at a time over your salmon. Use a spoon to gently push the beetroot cure off the fish. By now it should have shared its wonderful flavours with the fish and turned it a really vibrant colour. Put the rinsed salmon to one side and run the tray under the tap.
For the second cure, mix together the chopped herbs, grated horseradish and gin. Put the salmon back into the clean tray, skin-side down, and pack the herby cure onto the salmon using your hands. Make sure you cover all the flesh – you don’t want any air getting to it. Wrap it again with a double layer of greaseproof paper, then a tight layer of cling film. Pop the salmon back in the fridge for another 24 hours.
The next day your salmon will be perfectly cured and ready to eat. You don’t need to rinse off that second cure – simply slice the salmon as finely as you can on an angle so you get gorgeous thin slices of gravadlax tinged with pink and topped with herbs. Pile these onto a plate and serve with a couple of slices of buttered brown bread, and some watercress and wedges of lemon.