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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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gravlaks or gravlax a Scandinavian preparation of salmon (laks in Norwegian and in Danish—where you will usually meet it as gravadlaks, lax in Swedish) which differs greatly according to whether it is made in the traditional way, dating back to medieval times, or by modern methods. Astri Riddervold (1986, 1990a) has described both and pointed out the earliest mentions of the former.

The word gravlaks can be traced back in Scandinavian history to 1348, when a man from Jämtland, called Olafuer Gravlax, is mentioned. In 1509, another man, called Martin Surlax is mentioned in the annals of Stockholm. The words gravlax and surlax (buried fish and sour fish) are used as synonyms, buried fish describing the technique, sour fish the result—the fermented stinking fish. According to the old custom of giving people surnames in Scandinavia, both were probably professional producers of buried salmon.