Unveiling the Distinctions: Lox, Nova, and Smoked Salmon
Sometimes, we confidently believe we have a solid understanding of things. Certain aspects become so intertwined with our lives, history, and surroundings that our perception of their authenticity feels almost instinctual. However, my dear readers, it appears that we may be mistaken. Buckle up for a fascinating revelation.
Perhaps you know a couple of Jewish individuals, or maybe you are one yourself. Despite being a New York Jew, you might not truly grasp the disparities between lox, Nova, and smoked salmon. That delightful “bagel and lox” you relish on Sunday mornings might not actually be what it seems. Oy gevalt, I know. Take a deep breath.
Thankfully, we have Niki Russ Federman, the fourth-generation proprietor of Russ and Daughters, to clarify the matter. Let’s begin with the basics:
Curing versus Smoking
Two primary cooking methods are at play when discussing the appetizing varieties of salmon: curing and smoking. Curing entails preserving food in salt (and occasionally incorporating additional flavorings or aromatics). On the other hand, smoking involves exposing food to smoke. Cold-smoking salmon occurs at temperatures below 85°F, while hot-smoking takes place at temperatures above it. According to Niki, “cold-smoked salmon is sliced so thin that you can practically read the Times through it. Cured salmon possesses a similar texture but lacks any smoky flavor. Hot-smoked salmon, however, boasts a distinctively different texture; it’s meaty and flaky, reminiscent of cooked salmon.”
Lox, or “belly lox” as it is properly called, represents salt-cured salmon. (Similar to gravlax, which undergoes curing in sugar and salt, lox is not subjected to smoking.) People consumed this preserved salmon variation before refrigeration became widely accessible. Salmon from the Pacific was transported across the country in enormous salt baths and served to Jewish immigrants in New York before synagogue visits or long workdays. True lox possesses an incredibly salty and assertive taste. Niki explains, “We believe that serving lox with bread and dairy originated from the need to balance its intense flavor.” Interestingly, customers often walk into the store requesting “lox,” which necessitates a bit of back and forth to determine their actual desire. If someone of a certain age firmly asks for belly lox, no questions are asked. However, most individuals end up craving one of our seven varieties of smoked salmon.
So, folks, let it sink in: what you truly savor on your bagel is smoked salmon, specifically cold-smoked salmon, not lox.
The Quintessential Smoked Salmon: Nova
To Niki, the epitome of smoked salmon — what one envisions when imagining New York-style smoked salmon — is Gaspe Nova, or simply Nova. “Nova” refers to both the geographical location where the fish is caught (Nova Scotia) and a style of smoked salmon. In this particular style, the fish is first cured and then lightly smoked.
At Russ and Daughters, you’ll find the luxurious Gaspe Nova. It boasts marbling and fattiness that lend the salmon a silky quality. Additionally, they offer Scottish salmon and Western Nova. Scottish salmon strikes an ideal balance; it possesses a delightful smokiness while retaining moisture and silkiness due to its high fat content. Western Nova, created using wild king salmon, is leaner and more muscular, resulting in a firmer texture and bolder flavor compared to other styles.
Completing the range of salmon options is kippered salmon, which undergoes hot-smoking at 150°F. This imparts a texture more akin to poached salmon, with straight, thicker slices rather than the delicate cuts of cold-smoked or cured versions. Niki personally regards kippered salmon as one of the unsung heroes of appetizing, exclaiming, “I find it incredibly delicious.”
Oh, and here’s one more thing, along with a bonus “What’s the Difference!” moment: refrain from referring to these delectable items as “deli.” Niki points out, “In the Jewish tradition, meat and dairy are not mixed. Appetizing, which includes fish and dairy—foods typically enjoyed with bagels—is the sister food tradition to deli, the meat-focused counterpart. This distinction has stood for over a hundred years.”
Shedding light on the disparities between lox, Nova, and smoked salmon has been eye-opening, hasn’t it? Now you can confidently appreciate the nuances and relish your favorite salmon delicacy at our beloved Hook’d Up Bar and Grill.