Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Lox means smoked salmon

Bagels and lox, lox and bagels–and lox means smoked salmon, right? Wrong! I thought this was true for many years, and indeed it is common usage. Buy nay, this is not what lox means.

Lox starts with salmon fillets. They are covered with a good amount of salt (always), sugar (usually), and spices/herbs (optionally). This mixture is called the cure. They sit for a while, at least overnight and usually longer. Then the cure is rinsed off and, voila, you have lox (sometimes called gravlax). The curing process will have drawn a lot of water out of the fish, making it a lot firmer, and imbued it with salt and other flavors. Yes it’s raw, but the cure has killed any nasties. It’s yummy enough now.

Cured salmon (lox) ready to be smoked and made into Nova.

But then, you can smoke it. This is cold smoking where the fish is exposed to smoke but not heat. After quite a few hours in the smoke, the lox has absorbed the smoke flavor and is, at least in my opinion, even more delicious. It’s a light smoke, usually done with fruit wood, nothing like what would be done for BBQ or ribs (hickory or mesquite). The salmon is now known as Nova. The name Nova is capitalized because it comes from the name of Nova Scotia, the Canadian province where a lot of the salmon is–or at least was–caught.

Now of course a lot of people refer to Nova as lox so the meanings may be changing, as word meanings tend to do. But now if someone offers you Nova you’ll know what they mean.

And then there is hot smoked salmon, smoked and cooked at the same time. Delicious stuff, but very different from lox and Nova.

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