Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes Enough for


    First-Course Servings

Appears in

Simply Salmon

Simply Salmon

By James Peterson

Published 2001

  • About


  • two 3- to 4-pound whole salmon fillets with the skin attached, scaled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • about 20 sprigs of dill or tarragon, enough to cover generously the top of one of the fillets
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill or tarragon leaves (chopped at the last minute)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (if you’re using tarragon instead of dill)


Pull the pin bones out of the salmon fillets and prepare a triple-thick layer of aluminum foil about 3 times the width and slightly longer than one of the fillets.

Combine the sugar and salt and spread ½ cup of the mixture along the length of the aluminum foil. Place one of the fillets, skin side down, on top of the mixture. Make sure the mixture is spread so the entire skin of the fillet touches some of the mixture. Rub another ½ cup of the mixture over the flesh side of the fillet, using slightly more mixture over the thick end. Place the dill or tarragon on top of the fillet so its entire surface is covered and gently spread another cup of the sugar-salt mixture over it.

Place the second fillet, skin side up, on top of the first and rub it with the rest of the sugar-salt mixture. Fold up the sides of the aluminum foil so the fillets are tightly wrapped and place the packet on a sheet pan or cutting board large enough to hold it. Place another sheet pan or cutting board on top of the packet—again either one should run the length of the packet—and place a couple of cans or heavy-bottomed saucepans on top to gently weight the salmon. Put the whole contraption in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Turn the salmon over every 12 hours, being sure to put back the weights after each turn.

When the curing is done, unwrap the salmon fillets, quickly rinse them on both sides under cold running water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Smear the flesh side of both fillets with chopped dill or tarragon. If you’re using tarragon, rub the leaves with olive oil (this keeps them from blackening) before you chop them. Wrap the fillets in plastic wrap and refrigerate them. They will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months by first wrapping them in plastic wrap and then in a double layer of aluminum foil. Serve in thin slices (see box about slicing smoked salmon).