Curing Salmon: I didn’t even know it was sick

I have been trying to overcome some of the more debilitating drawbacks of Minnesota food culture.  Mind you, Minnesota doesn’t have a food culture, unless mediocrity and ignorance can be considered a food culture.  There are two main problems with Minnesota food:  the bagels are horrible and the pizza is worse.  My wife and I have discovered Cossetta’s in St Paul, which has the closest thing to a passable pizza in the Twin Cities.  There are still problems with it, of course, but the pizza there is closer to a New York pie than anything else we’ve found out on this prairie, where excellence is considered rude and everyone strives to achieve a non-threatening level of so-so.

Bagels are an entirely different problem.  There’s an Einstein Bros. Bagels, but the bagels at Einsteins are typical, mediocre,chain store bagels.  Bruegger’s Bagels is worse.  Bruegger’s claims to be an “authentic New York style bagel”, which is an insult to bagels and New York.  (Actually, the best bagels ever were made in Paterson, NJ when I was a child, but the family closed the shop when the father died and the kids didn’t want to keep the bagel business going, so they locked the recipe in a safe deposit box and it hasn’t seen the light of day in over forty years.  Those bagels are legendary among Jewish Patersonians of a certain age…of which I am proud to be one.)

I located a bagel recipe online that sounded like it might get me close to making bagels like you get in the New York Metro.  My first five batches got progressively better until I finally got it just right.    I tweaked that recipe until I was satisfied with the results.  Now I can make excellent bagels.  The key step to making great bagels is boiling the dough, and the key to boiling the dough is getting the amount of baking soda in the water right and the length of the boil.  I tried a variety of solutions and a variety of times before I settled on the recipe I now use.

Of course, once you have great bagels, you need lox and cream cheese.  Cream cheese is no problem, but I can’t find lox in this provincial hinterland.  I can find smoked salmon, but smoked salmon is not lox.  Lox is not smoked; lox is cured.  So I went online and found a lox recipe.  I have a twelve ounce filet of salmon curing in my refrigerator at this very moment.  It has completed four days of cure and, tomorrow evening, it will be fully cured and ready.  Tomorrow afternoon I will make my bagels and have a fresh block of cream cheese.  Tomorrow night I will be dining on bagels, cream cheese, and lox.  I can hardly wait.

If  you want good food in Minnesota, you have to make it yourself, because you certainly won’t find it in the restaurants around here.


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