Monday, November 21, 2005

Smoked salmon

Since she knows I'm obsessed with food, my wife often turns to me with the obscure culinary questions that pop into her head from time to time. What's the difference between escarole and kale? What are the non-animal sources of gelatin? Are the brussel sprout and the endive from the same family of plant? Usually I delight in being able to come up with a speedy and accurate answer to her questions. But yesterday I was stumped.

What's the difference between Nova and lox? Not being a native New-Yorker, I had no idea. My wife's theory went like this. Nova is just another name for smoked salmon. Lox sounds a bit like the end of the Scandinavian gravlax (at least when both are pronounced with an American accent), so it must be essentially that: cured, not smoked, salmon.

I didn't buy this theory for a second. But I didn't have an alternative to offer my wife, so she spent most of the day chuckling to herself, and I spent most of the day grumbling.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my wife was basically right, at least in the sense that Nova is smoked and lox is not. But there's a bit more to it than that. Here's what I've managed to piece together from various sources across the internet. There are some inconsistencies out there, but everyone seems to agree on at least these basic facts:
Nova. Nova is salmon that is cured, usually in a sugar and salt brine, and then lightly smoked. Nova is usually made from Atlantic salmon, which itself is usually from the coast of Nova Scotia, hence the name.

Lox. The word lox comes from the German lachs, which is itself etymologically related to the Scandinavian lax. These words mean "salmon". Lox is heavily cured in a salt brine (and later soaked in water to remove the saltiness), and is not smoked at all.
That's how things should be, at least. But it seems that it's a bit more complicated than that. For one thing, most manufacturers seem to call their Nova "Nova Lox", contrasted with just plain "lox", or sometimes "belly lox" (presumably from the belly of the fish, a significantly more fatty cut).

In any case, whatever people end up calling it, true Nova has a lighter, less salty taste than lox. And Nova is more expensive than lox. Scottish, or Scottish-style, smoked salmon, by the way, is cold-smoked for much longer than Nova, and as a result is smokier-tasting and drier in texture.

So now I know, and by tonight, so will my wife.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

very timely! living around the corner from russ & daughter's, i just was asking myself this same question. thanks.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for clearing that up! I was looking everywhere for the difference between smoked salmon and lox.

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