Lox - Wet Brine Recipe?

Discussion in 'Fish' started by strawman, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. I have been wanted to make some lox, however, I would like to keep it nice and easy by simply using a wet brine/cure.  I thought about just using a variation of Pop's brine recipe and letting the fish soak for a day.  Then pull out of the brine and do a taste test to determine the necessary amount of desalination.  Let soak in ice water until it tastes right.  Then let it sit in the fridge overnight to form the pellicle.  Then cold smoke for a few hours keeping the temp below 80 degrees. 

    I searched on here and I didn't find any "wet brine only" threads.  So I wondered if anyone had any ideas.  I understand it would probably be a little mushy compared to dry cured. 

    Let me know what you think and if you know of a thread on this or can point to some other info, it would be greatly appreciated. 


  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I use Pops recipe on everything else, but have always dry cured salmon for lox.

    I will be interested to see how yours turns out if you decide on a wet brine cure.
  3. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    I have used Pop's recipe.
  4. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have never had Lox but I think I need to try it as it looks awesome. I love making smoked salmon but so far I always use my dry rub brine. We love it some much that I have never had any reason to try anything else. I need to give a wet brine a try some time just to expand my horizons.

  5. And...   is there a thread on it?  What were the results?   How do you think it compared to dry cured lox? 


  6. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    I've done dry cures with salt and sugar and wet brines with  salt and sugar and find the wet brine yields a more silky texture.  I use an ~ 20% brine or 2 pounds of salt per gallon of water plus a big hand full of dark brown sugar.  I use skin on  salmon and usually buy a whole side so the weight is around 3-4 pounds and thickness at the thickest part is a little over 2 inches.  I soak 12-16 hrs and haven't found it too salty yet.  I do refresh for 30-60 min prior to drying in the fridge.  Wet brining is so much easier and I just love the texture.
  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    This will be interesting considering the Tradional Texture of Lox is so dependent on dehydration from the Dry cure. Hope you post lots of pics...JJ
  8. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    From my understanding, traditional lox are done in a wet brine.  E.g. belly lox

    I can tell you that in a wet brine, if the fish is brined long enough the the fish becomes firm indicating a loss of internal water.
  9. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    This is totally cool! From extensive research I found we are BOTH right...Depending on Family, Region, Country and so forth, Lox is made with a Dry Cure, Brine or BOTH! I have only used dry cures taught to me by some old time Chefs, trusting their experience.... This is what's great about this site you literally learn something new every time you log on. Thanks for the education...JJ

  10. I just ordered an AMNPS the other day so I just have to take the leap and try this.  I really like Costco smoked salmon and I am pretty sure it is wet brine cured.

    Scuba, you let yours soak for what I thought would be a short time but you do use a lot of salt.  Have you done any variations to the recipe?  Have you done it dry cured?  How does it compare? 

    A salmon filet can be pretty thick and bacon gets left in the brine for a 9-10 days, so I am wondering if I should just give a whirl and do a taste test after the 3-4 days and see.  Obviously, Pop's brine recipe has less salt. 
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2011
  11. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have heard of it being done both ways and with and without smoke.  Makes me wonder about lox vs smoked salmon.

    I have always done it dry for gravlox because it is so simple.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  12. alaskanbear

    alaskanbear Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• Lox (or lachs) is salt-cured salmon that is essentially raw, never having been raised to more than 90° F. during processing. Lox recipes are difficult to find, as people tend to guard them as jealously as the Masons have guarded their secret rites for centuries. But here on LoxMania, all is revealed! The process below has been tried and tested for over twenty years. [/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Some lox is smoked and some lox is treated with dill and other herbs (so-called 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 sole challenging step here is in "freshening" the product to the right degree of saltiness, rehydration and consistency. None of the other steps has to be perfect.[/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• 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 kippered salmon, whereas silver salmon, being less oily, makes the best lox. You can make lox from the other species as well, but, if you compare them, you will find that silver is the best in terms of flavor and "sliceability."[/font]
    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• 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. [/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• 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.[/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• There are six main steps in making lox:[/font]
    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• 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!

    • 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."

    • 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 6 lbs. of coarse salt to a gallon of water. A clean 5-gallon plastic bucket is ideal. The brine is a saturated solution.... in other words, it has so much salt in it that any excess simply won't dissolve. It helps to use hot water, but make sure it is cool when the fish is added.

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] Remove the pieces and with cold running water briskly rinse off any salt-sugar mix that remains.[/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]•Add the pieces to the brine solution and let sit for 12 hours. Does not need refrigeration. Brining draws water from the fish as it salts the fist. This is what "cures" the lox, as it is not a cooked product.[/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]•Empty the brine from the bucket and place a garden hose at the bottom of the bucket. Slowly run cold water through the hose, causing the bucket to overflow (obviously, this is an outdoor step). This will begin to desalt, or "freshen" the fish. Freshening is the most critical step of the process! 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.

    • 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.

    • 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 90°, or those pieces will be ruined!

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

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• 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.[/font]

    [font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]• 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. [/font]
    czarcastic likes this.
  13. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thanks for the info A-Bear!
  14. africanmeat

    africanmeat Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wow A Bear this is a great tutorial Thanks
  15. I got my AMZNPS the other day, just burned the oil off and doing a little test run with some dust.  I was reading "Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausage" by Stanley and Adam Marianski.  They had a little blurp on cold smoked salmon.  It was very simple.  It says "Place salmon fillets in 80 degrees brine [2.229 pounds of salt per gallon of water, I believe] for 6 -12 hours, depending on the size of the fillets.  Remove fish from the brine and rinse for 1 hours under cold running water.  Place on smoking rack and dry the fish (3 hours). Place in smoker and smoke below 70 degree F for about 16 hours.  Remove the fish from the smoker and cool it."  Page 553.

    I have made this brine, the only difference was I added an ounce of pink salt to the gallon mix (I was sure to account for the addition to make sure I had an 80 degree brine).  The above is very similar to what ScoobyDoo reported earlier.  I planning on buying some salmon tomorrow morning and giving it a go.  I will post the results.  The only thing that could derail it is if my AMNPS isn't going too well, but, from all the positive reports I see on here, I don't think I will have a problem. 
  16. I did my first run on smoking some cheese. I bought a "three-alarm" pepper/colby jack cheese and did it for four hours.  Tried a bite, too harsh at the moment, needs to mellow.  But the real thing I am about doing is the salmon.  I went to Sams today and bought a nice looking filet and I trimmed and dropped them in the brine for 7 hours.  Gave them an hour long rinse and did a taste test.  Little on the salty side but I was okay with it, what I was kind of mad about is that is was kind of fishy!  So, I'm a little worried that the end product is going to not be that great because it will be fishy.   (I've bought Sam's Club smoked salmon before and I thought that was fishy too, but I love Costco's smoked salmon.)  I dried the fish and threw in the fridge for three hours.  I am trying to essentially follow the method in Marianski's book (the one I referenced earlier).

    I will post some q-view when it is finished but I can tell you that the product going in to the smoker is pretty firm.  So I feel good about the texture of the product.  Time will tell.
  17. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Lots of variation in Fishy Flavor in Salmon...Breed, Wild vs Farm Raised and time of year Caught...If its too strong straight up, we can give suggestions for combining it with ingredients that will help cut the flavor...Rolls , Spreads, Etc...JJ
  18. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    If it smells fishy, buy the lamb! Or...we won't go there!  LOL

    Good luck and good smoking.
  19. Well, I did it.  I only smoked it for 12 hours.  I loved the texture, it wasn't fishy, and it was very easy.  However, when I say I "only" smoked it for 12 hours, it was a little too smokey.  But, it will hopefully mellow a bit and then it will be perfect. 

    Here is the Q-view!  I soaked it for 7 hours.  I did weigh it down so it stayed fully submerged.


    After I dried them and left them in the fridge for three hours.


    In the smoker then go.  I smoked for a total of 12 hours.  The AMNPS blew out for a bit, so my 12 hours was an estimate.  I was planning on smoking it longer, but as I said, I would have probably smoked it a little less but I think it will mellow.  Good nonetheless.




    Money shot.  I only had a plain bagel thin and no onion, so it isn't as mouthwatering as some of the other bagel shots but it was good!


    Long story short, I'm happy with my process and I will be tweaking it as it goes along.  I will have to try doing a dry cure just to compare the two. 
  20. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Sliced pics look good.  Flavor and texture are the things you will decide. I bet you will find it turns out a little different each time you make it.

    Many ways of doing this, and many won't agree with others.  Almost like doing the perfect chili or the perfect meatloaf.  LOL

    Good luck and good smoking.

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