Any-Fin is Possible With Smoked Salmon!

The staple of any Jewish deli, besides the reuben, has to be bagels and lox. But what is lox anyway? And why is it so popular in American Jewish cuisine? If you’re looking to learn a little something, or just want to up your smoked salmon game, take a deep dive with us!

A Lesson on Lox

Lox originated not in the shtetls (small towns) of Eastern Europe, but in 19th century Scandinavia! Fishermen were at a loss for how to preserve their catches, and ultimately decided to use a saltwater brine that would cure the fish and make it safe to eat, even when they didn’t consume it right away. True lox can be very salty from the brine, and today it’s usually cured with a lighter amount of salt and is then cold-smoked. 

The typical Ashkenazi Jewish fare is made with easy to acquire, inexpensive ingredients, since those were the items available to shtetl communities and new immigrant families in the States — and lox, as we all probably know, is not cheap! But throughout the 20s and 30s, lox was actually pretty affordable because of the availability of salmon in the Pacific Northwest! This salmon was then taken cross country to New York via the transcontinental railroad. Similar to the Scandinavian fisherman who needed to preserve their catches, Jewish immigrant families needed food that would remain safe to eat without refrigeration (a new appliance that many could not afford). Lox solved this problem, and made its way into Jewish diets in New York for its abundance, convenience, and stress-free storage. Fish is also pareve (neither meat nor dairy according to kosher laws), which makes it a versatile food that can be eaten with any meal!

Beyond the practical use of lox, there was a bit of a social element as well. In the 1930s, the hot new thing on people’s plates was Eggs Benedict: toasted bread or an English muffin layered with ham or bacon, poached eggs, and a generous pour of hollandaise. Definitely not an option for the folks keeping a kosher home, as pork is not kosher, and neither is mixing a dairy-based sauce like hollandaise with meat. The bagel-and-lox combo, in this way, was a response to this dish; swap the toast for a bagel, then the cream cheese and lox replace the hollandaise and pork to create a kosher adaptation. In its inception, the bagel and lox was made with belly lox, a fatty, salty cut of the fish. The cream cheese cuts through the salinity of the fish in the most delicious, lip-lickin’ way. 

Today, we think of bagels as a breakfast or brunch food (Did you know lox is the most popular Sunday-morning item sold at the iconic New York market Zabar’s?), but it wasn’t always that way everywhere! Prior to the American Jewish love affair with a good schmear of cream cheese, Jewish communities in Poland traditionally spread schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) on their bagels, or ate them with cholent or other soups. 

Dive Into These Options!

We have a plethora of options beyond the traditional lox available for your bagel and schmears. We’re very lucky to be close to The Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater system. Long before colonization, more than a dozen Indigenous tribes around The Great Lakes were utilizing its abundance of fish as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BCE! Today, commercial fishery is made up of lake whitefish, walleye, yellow perch, and ciscoes. Many fish species have come and gone due to overfishing in The Great Lakes, which is why we do our best to find sustainable vendors for our fish (it also tastes better!). 

Ducktrap Smoked Salmon

Farm raised from the Ducktrap River in Maine and cold smoked over hard wood for almost 12 hours, then pre-sliced for your convenience! While lox and smoked salmon are both cured, traditional lox is not smoked (see our Belly Lox below!). Semantics aside, this will still be a hit on any bagel — and it’s what we serve in-house for our bagel toppings at the Next Door Café!

Tracklements Hand Sliced Smoked Salmon

Our most popular salmon! You say “nova,” we say “classic!” Hailing from the cold Atlantic waters off the Faroe Islands north of Scotland and from the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Cured with salt and sugar, then cold smoked over Tracklemen’s special blend of hard woods. Hand-sliced to keep the valuable fish oils intact for a soft delightful texture and maximum flavor. 

Rotating Salmon

It’s always changing – stop by the Deli or check online to see what we’ve got in store! A recent option was seasoned with Chimichurri and hand sliced. This method of seasoning uses the pellicle of the fish — a thin coating of proteins on the surface of the meat — to make sure all the flavor adheres!

Kippered Salmon

Hot smoked salmon with the same wood. The heat makes it flaky and a perfect addition to any picnic. 

Belly Lox

Cured, but not smoked in the traditional Scottish cold-smoking process with oak. Did you know smoked salmon and “lox” or “nova lox” aren’t synonymous? This is the real deal, real lox cured with salt and sugar. The cut is taken from the belly of the fish, where it is rich in fat and flavor. To prevent food waste, the loin of this fish is used to make the kippered salmon.

Smoked Trout

Wild caught off the Straits of Mackinaw. Hot smoked to make a flaky texture that is great in salads or eating it as is! Cut to be sold as whole pieces rather than sliced to order. 

Smoked Whitefish

Native to Michigan, Whitefish have been around for millennia. This is a real treat that we make for our house Whitefish salad. A Deli staple. When Jewish people immigrated to the States, they discovered that the freshwater whitefish found in the Great Lakes was very similar to the freshwater whitefish they ate in Europe; it quickly became a staple of Jewish delis, and one of the great icons of Jewish American cuisine. A popular preparation for smoked whitefish is to chop it really fine and mix it with seasoning, veggies, some sour cream and mayo to create a salad, perfect for toast or bagels (or matzoh, if it’s Passover!). And you’re in luck: we make it!

Whitefish Salad

Handmade in the Deli kitchen with smoked whitefish, Calder Dairy sour cream, Red Onion, parsley, fresh dill, lemon juice, cucumbers, mayo, and plenty of Tellicherry black pepper. Available seasonally in the fish case and on the catering menu!

Serving Suggestions

We don’t think there’s ever a wrong time for a bagel and lox, but we also know it’s fun to play around with ingredients and use them in ways you haven’t before! 

Put a spin on your breakfast sandwich and layer some lox over soft-scrambled eggs on a piece of toast or a croissant. Use any odd trimmings by blitzing them up into a pâté with some soft cheese and plenty of capers and lemon (bagel-and-lox dip…?). Fold it gently into some pasta dressed with chili and lemon and some good olive oil, or you could even make a smoked salmon carbonara!