Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)

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Looking for a stunning new way to serve salmon for an occasion? Beetroot
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Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)

Looking for a stunning new way to serve salmon for an occasion? Beetroot cured Salmon, gently flavoured with spices and a little vodka or gin, is a show-stopping, sophisticated-looking wonder that’s incredibly easy to make!

This salmon is wonderful for serving at parties as canapés or a first course, or just having around in the fridge (it keeps for days!) so you can shave slices off to nibble or for sandwiches.

Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)Beetroot-cured Salmon

Are you ready to impress the pants off your family and friends?? Deceptively easy, looks stunning and outrageously delicious to eat: beetroot cured salmon!

So what exactly is curing?

Curing is an age-old means of preserving fish in lean times. It also happens to create new flavours and textures in the fish as the salt (as well as sometimes sugar) does its work.

Like other preservation methods such as drying, smoking, pickling and so on, we have less of a need to cure for preservation purposes today. However we still apply these methods to food appreciate their delicious eating qualities!

Using beetroot in the curing process is an additional step you can do when curing fish that imparts a stunning maroon colour to the flesh surface and a subtle beetroot flavour! When sliced, the show-stopping contrast of colours between the beetroot-red and the orange salmon flesh is guaranteed to get everyone ooh-ing and ahh-ing!

Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)

But why stop there? Curing is a great vehicle for injecting even more flavours that work brilliantly with salmon into the meat. So today I’m offering two variations of the beetroot cure:

  1. Gin-juniper-coriander seed; and

  2. Vodka-caraway-coriander seed.

Not only is curing salmon at home child’s play once you have the right proportion of salt, sugar and flavourings, but it’s also far cheaper than buying equivalent shop-bought versions. I don’t know about where you live, but here in Sydney, tiny packets of similar cured-and-flavoured salmon are marketed as gourmet goods and sold for eye-watering prices. Why drop wads of your hard-earned money on something that you can so easily make at home, and as much as you desire?

  • Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)
  • Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)

What does it mean to salt-cure salmon?

Curing refers to a method of preserving salmon using salt and sugar to draw liquid out of the salmon. This technique originates in the Nordic countries and northern parts of Europe, where salmon in the rivers and ocean is plentiful but historically the harsh climate meant preserving foods was also an essential way of life.

Curing extends the shelf life by drawing out moisture from the flesh, depriving bacteria and other microorganisms from a cosy environment in which they can live. Removing moisture also alters the texture of the flesh, causing it to become firmer much like other cured meats (ham, salami etc).

It also allows the opportunity to add flavour into the salmon. Classic flavourings include fresh dill (for Salmon Gravlax), and gin or vodka plus spices which is what I am sharing in today’s recipe.

“Is cured salmon raw?” Short answer: Yes. While the fish is technically raw (since it’s not cooked by heat), the fish is perfectly safe to eat, since the salt kills bacteria etc and inhibits their growth. Prosciutto, salami, and smoked salmon are all examples of delicious foods that are cured but uncooked!

Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)Ingredients for Cured Salmon

To make Beetroot-cured Salmon, you need: fresh salmon, sugar and salt (for curing), beetroot (for staining) and flavourings (gin or vodka + spices):

Ingredients in Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)Raw salmon for Beetroot Cured Salmon

  • Fresh salmon – Ideally, sashimi-grade salmon is best. However it doesn’t need to be sashimi-grade (ie. fresh enough to eat uncured), because we’re going to cure it with enough salt to make sure it’s safe to eat. It does though still need to be very fresh! Check with your fish monger to ensure the fish is fresh enough to cure. But most importantly, check it yourself. If the salmon smells like the ocean and not very “fishy”, and is firm to the touch it’s fresh enough. If it smells and looks funky, give it a miss….

  • Sugar and salt – These are the essential ingredients that cure the salmon. Both draw liquid out of the fish to preserve it. Why sugar too? Because the amount of salt required to cure salmon properly makes it way too salty. So sugar is an excellent way to share the curing work, while also balancing the flavours so it’s not just salt. Sugar doesn’t make the salmon sweet-tasting at all. Most smoked salmon, for example, uses sugar as well as salt.;

  • Beetroot (aka beet) – This is what stains the outside of the salmon maroon, making for the striking appearance. It is mostly for aesthetics, any beetroot flavour is extremely subtle; and

  • Gin OR vodka plus spices (juniper or caraway, coriander and peppercorns) – These two spirits that hail from cold-weather countries famous for curing fish naturally work well here! I couldn’t decide between the two so I decided to provide both so you can choose. It really comes down to flavour preference – or drink preference! 😉 If you’re unsure, I’d opt for gin. The flavour is milder, smoother and a little more interesting. Also, you can get away with a more economical liquor (cheap vodka is pretty harsh!).

Ingredients in Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)What you need for Gin-cured Salmon

  • Gin – If you’re happy to drink it, it’s good for curing, that’s my rule! Hendrick’s brand is a firm favourite in my house. Tanqueray is also a frequent lurker in my liquor cupboard. But less premium brands absolutely work just as well. The gin flavour is not in-your-face, and people who are not a fan of gin for drinking will still love this cured salmon because the other flavours in it (the salmon and spices) are also prominent;

  • Juniper and coriander – Classic spices that go with gin-cured fish that are echo the key flavourings of gin itself; and

  • Black peppercorn – Because pepper belongs in everything!

What you need for Vodka-cured Salmon

  • Vodka – As with gin, use your drinking vodka of choice. I find that I can taste the vodka slightly more than gin, simply because vodka has a slightly harsher edge to it. But again, as with the gin-cured version, I guarantee people who don’t actually enjoy drinking vodka will still devour the salmon because it’s a background rather than dominant flavour!;

  • Caraway and coriander seeds – Excellent complementary spices that go with vodka for the cured fish; and

  • White peppercorns

How to make Beetroot Cured Salmon

I think you’re going to be amazed how easy this is! It really is mostly just about curing time, which involves nothing more than leaving it in your fridge.

How long it takes to cure salmon: 48 hours for the actual curing, plus a recommended extra 12 – 48 hours resting time to allow the salt to redistribute more evenly throughout the salmon.

How to make Gin or Vodka Beetroot Cured Salmon

  1. Beetroot cure – Place the beetroot, sugar, salt plus the gin or vodka-flavouring ingredients in a food processor;

  2. Blitz until quite smooth, like a smoothie. It should not be totally liquified, but you still want the beetroot to be blitzed until very fine;

How to make Gin or Vodka Beetroot Cured Salmon

  1. Line container – Select a container that fits the salmon snugly, and ideally has a lid. If the container is too large, the beetroot mixture will spread too thinly and this might compromise how intensely the red colour stains the salmon and how well the curing mixture goes to work on the salmon.

    (If you only have a large container, use scrunched up strips of foil under the cling wrap along the edges of the container to contain the surface area onto which the beetroot mixture spreads.)

    Line the container with two big sheets of cling wrap, overlapping and perpendicular like a cross. Make sure the cling wrap sheets are large enough to fully enclose the salmon once wrapped. Then spread the beetroot mixture onto the cling wrap inside the container;

  2. Place salmon on top of the beetroot mixture, flesh side down. Press down lightly to ensure the flesh is fully in contact with the beetroot mixture. Do not press down too hard however, to ensure you don’t force the beetroot mixture from underneath the salmon – otherwise it won’t stain red as evenly;

How to make Gin or Vodka Beetroot Cured Salmon

  1. Cure 48 hours – Wrap salmon with the cling wrap, place lid on if you have one (else wrap tightly with more cling wrap) and refrigerate for 48 hours. There is no need to turn the salmon, as the beetroot will work its way over all the surfaces of the flesh. I told you, this is entirely hands off!!

    This is the curing process. The salt and sugar will draw moisture out of the salmon, in turn preserving fish and extending its shelf life. The flesh of the salmon will be thus drier and firmer than it is when raw;

  2. Unwrap the salmon. There will be more liquid than you started with. This is due to the aforementioned moisture drawn out of the salmon during the curing process;

How to make Gin or Vodka Beetroot Cured Salmon

  1. Rinse the salmon under the tap to get rid of excess salt and beetroot mix;

  2. Rest 12 – 24 hours (recommended) – Pat the salmon dry. If time permits, place the salmon in a clean container and leave it overnight in the fridge for at least 12 and preferably 24 hours. This allows the opportunity for what salt is now in the salmon to redistribute more evenly throughout the meat. If you serve the salmon straight after removing it from the cure, you will find that the surface is saltier than the middle.

    While this step is recommended, it’s not essential! It’s still wonderful eaten straight away. Since we serve it sliced thinly and usually draped on to bread with garnishes, most people don’t even notice that it’s saltier on the outside. It’s just for perfectionists like me who want to achieve the best result, given the time! 😂

And now for the best part: presenting the salmon! And of course basking in all those praises you are about to be lavished with!! 😉

Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)How to serve Beetroot-cured Salmon

The whole point (ok, MOST of the point!) of using a beetroot cure for the salmon is so it looks STUNNING when it’s presented.

So, let’s talk about serving it up, and all the bells and whistles we are going to add to make this a stunning platter to impress the pants off your family and friends!

  1. Horseradish cream sauce – For serving. Horseradish as a traditional accompaniment for cured salmon. Spiky, fresh and creamy, this one is made with fresh horseradish which unfortunately can be irritatingly hard to find here in Australia. So don’t fret if you can’t find source it. You can just serve plain sour cream is an excellent and another traditional alternative. (Note: I’d recommend sour cream over trying to use jarred horseradish here, as the stuff is weirdly sour and lacks the punch of fresh horseradish – it’s not worth it);

  2. Crisp toasted bread – I like to use a rye bread which is another classic combination with cured salmon. Cut them small into bite size pieces;

  3. Crispy fried capers – You could use just plain capers, straight out of the jar. But why not fry them up in a little oil for a some texture??

  4. Fresh dill sprigs – Of course you saw this coming! What is salmon without some dill?

  5. Lemon slices – For another splash of colour and squeezing over your salmon to taste.

Pile it all up on a platter, and here is what you get:

Beetroot Cured Salmon (Gin or Vodka)

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Kick-Ass content from the Back Benches every day ! We bring you the kind of shows that TV doesn’t make ! Get ready to see the world from the back benches. We are responsible for only what we say, not what you understand ;)

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