One of America’s Favorites – Bagel and Cream Cheese

February 25, 2019 at 6:01 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A bagel with cream cheese

A bagel and cream cheese (also known as bagel with cream cheese) is a common food pairing in American cuisine, the cuisine of New York City, and American Jewish cuisine, consisting in its basic form of an open-faced sandwich made of a bagel spread with cream cheese. The bagel is typically sliced into two pieces, and can be served as-is or toasted. The basic bagel with cream cheese serves as the base for other sandwiches such as the “lox and schmear”, a staple of delicatessens in the New York area, and across the U.S.

A bagel with cream cheese is common in American cuisine and the cuisine of New York City. In the United States, the bagel and cream cheese is often eaten for breakfast, and with smoked salmon is sometimes served for brunch. In New York City circa 1900, a popular combination consisted of a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato, and red onion.

The combination of a bagel with cream cheese has been promoted to American consumers in the past by American food manufacturers and publishers. In the early 1950s, Kraft Foods launched an “aggressive advertising campaign” that depicted Philadelphia-brand cream cheese with bagels. In 1977, Better Homes and Family Circle magazines published a bagel and cream cheese recipe booklet that was distributed in the magazines and also placed in supermarket dairy cases.

In American Jewish cuisine, a bagel and cream cheese is sometimes called a “whole schmear” or “whole schmeer”, indicating a bagel with cream cheese. A “slab” is a bagel served with a slab of

A “lox and a schmear” refers to a sliced bagel with cream cheese and lox, a part of American Jewish cuisine.

cream cheese atop it. A “lox and a schmear” refers to a bagel with cream cheese and lox or smoked salmon. Tomato, red onion, capers and chopped hard-boiled egg are additional ingredients that are sometimes used on the lox and schmear. All of these terms are used at some delicatessens in New York City, particularly at Jewish delicatessens and older, more traditional delicatessens.

The lox and schmear likely originated in New York City around the time of the turn of the 20th century, when street vendors in the city sold salt-cured belly lox from pushcarts. A high amount of

salt in the fish necessitated the addition of bread and cheese to reduce the lox’s saltiness. It was reported by U.S. newspapers in the early 1940s that bagels and lox were sold by delicatessens in New York City as a “Sunday morning treat”, and in the early 1950s, bagels and cream cheese combination were very popular in the United States, having permeated American culture.

Both bagels and cream cheese are mass-produced foods in the United States. Additionally, in January 2003, Kraft Foods began purveying a mass-produced convenience food product named Philadelphia To Go Bagel & Cream Cheese, which consisted of a combined package of two bagels and cream cheese.


Seafood of the Week – Lox

May 6, 2014 at 5:29 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | 1 Comment
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Lox on bagel

Lox on bagel


Lox is a fillet of brined salmon. Traditionally, lox is served on a bagel with cream cheese, and is usually garnished with tomato, sliced red onion, and sometimes capers, which diners may or may not opt to add to the bagel. Some American preparations of scrambled eggs or frittata include a mince of lox and onion.




Lox and cream cheese sandwich

Lox and cream cheese sandwich

* Nova or Nova Scotia salmon, sometimes called Nova lox, is cured with a milder brine and then cold-smoked. The name dates from a time when much of the salmon in New York City came from Nova Scotia. Today, however, the name refers to the milder brining, as compared to regular lox (or belly lox), and the fish may come from other waters or even be raised on farms.
* Scotch or Scottish-style salmon. A mixture of salt and sometimes sugars, spices, and other flavorings is applied directly to the meat of the fish; this is called “dry-brining” or “Scottish-style.” The brine mixture is then rinsed off, and the fish is cold-smoked.
* Nordic-style smoked salmon. The fish is salt-cured and cold-smoked.
* Gravad lax or gravlax. This is a traditional Nordic means of preparing salmon. The salmon is coated with a spice mixture, which often includes dill, sugars, salt, and spices like juniper berry. It is often served with a sweet mustard-dill sauce.
Other similar brined and smoked fish products are also popular in delis and fish stores, particularly in Chicago & the New York City boroughs, such as chubs, Sable (smoked cod), smoked sturgeon, smoked whitefish, and kippered herring.



Fish of the Week – Cured Fish

January 14, 2014 at 9:11 AM | Posted in fish, seafood, Seafood of the Week | 1 Comment
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Equipment for curing fish used by the North Carolina Algonquins, 1585

Equipment for curing fish used by the North Carolina Algonquins, 1585

Cured fish refers to fish which has been cured by subjecting it to fermentation, pickling, smoking, or some combination of these before it is eaten. These food preservation processes can include adding salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar, can involve smoking and flavoring the fish, and may include cooking it. The earliest form of curing fish was dehydration. Other methods, such as smoking fish or salt-curing also go back for hundreds of years. The term “cure” is derived from the Latin curare, meaning to take care of. It was first recorded in reference to fish in 1743.


According to Binkerd and Kolari (1975), the practice of preserving meat by salting it originated in Asian deserts. “Saline salts from this area contained impurities such as nitrates that contributed to the characteristic red colour of cured meats. As early as 3,000 BC in Mesopotamia, cooked meats and fish were preserved in sesame oil and dried salted meat and fish were part of the Summerian diet. Salt from the Dead Sea was in use by Jewish inhabitants around 1,600 BC, and by 1,200 BC, the Phoenicians were trading salted fish in the Eastern Mediterranean region. By 900 BC, salt was being produced in ‘salt gardens’ in Greece and dry salt curing and smoking of meat were well established. The Romans (200 BC) acquired curing procedures from the Greeks and further developed methods to “pickle” various kinds of meats in a brine marinade. It was during this time that the reddening effect of salting was noted. Saltpeter (potassium nitrate) is mentioned as being gathered in China and India prior to the Christian era for use in meat curing… In Medieval times, the application of salt and saltpeter as curing ingredients was commonplace and the reddening effect on meat was attributed to saltpeter.”



Salt is “the oldest and best known of preserving agents… its chief action appears to be due to its power of attracting moisture, and thus extracting fluid to harden the tissues”
– Edward Smith, 1873
able salt (sodium chloride) is a primary ingredient used to cure fish. Removal of water and addition of salt to fish creates a solute-rich environment where osmotic pressure draws water out of microorganisms, retarding their growth. Doing this requires a concentration of salt of nearly 20%.



Salmon prepared for curing

Salmon prepared for curing

Sugar is sometimes added when curing fish, particularly salmon. The sugar can take many forms, including honey, corn syrup solids, and maple syrup. Adding sugar alleviates the harsh flavor of the salt. It also contributes to the growth of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus by feeding them.
Nitrates and nitrites have been used for hundreds of years to prevent botulism in fish and ensure microbial safety. Nitrates help kill bacteria, produce a characteristic flavor, and give fish a pink or red color. The use of nitrates in food preservation is controversial. This is due to the potential for the formation of nitrosamines when the preserved food is cooked at high temperature. A 2007 study by Columbia University suggests a link between eating cured meats and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nitrites were posited as a possible cause. The use of either compound is carefully regulated. For example, the FDA Code of Federal Regulations states that sodium nitrite may be safely used: “As a color fixative in smoked cured tunafish products so that the level of sodium nitrite does not exceed 10 parts per million (0.001 percent) in the finished product… As a preservative and color fixative, with or without sodium nitrate, in smoked, cured sablefish, smoked, cured salmon, and smoked, cured shad so that the level of sodium nitrite does not exceed 200 parts per million and the level of sodium nitrate does not exceed 500 parts per million in the finished product.”
Fish can also be preserved by smoking, which is drying the fish with smoke from burning or smoldering plant materials, usually wood. Smoking helps seal the outer layer of the food being cured, making it more difficult for bacteria to enter. It can be done in combination with other curing methods such as salting. Common smoking styles include hot smoking, smoke roasting and cold smoking. Smoke roasting and hot smoking cook the fish while cold smoking does not. If the fish is cold smoked, it should be dried quickly to limit bacterial growth during the critical period where the fish is not yet dry. This can be achieved by drying thin slices of fish.

Cured fish dishes:

Lox on bagel

Lox on bagel

* Anchovies — Europe and Southeast Asia, brine-preserved, fermented, or dried
* Bottarga – salted and cured fish roe
* Jeotgal – Korean fermented aquatic animal(i.g. fish) with salt and spices
* Po (food) – Korean dried marine fish (especially Alaska pollock)
* Gravlax — Scandinavian raw salmon cured with sugar, salt, and spices, similar to lox
* Lox — Europe, cured salmon fillet
* Matjes or Soused herring — The Netherlands and Eastern England
* Pickled herring — Europe, especially Scandinavia, Poland, North Germany and the Baltic
* Pla ra – used as a flavouring in Thai cuisine
* Rollmops — Europe, Pickled herring fillets rolled around sliced onion and cucumber
* Smoked salmon — Northern Europe (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Scotland), a preparation of salmon, typically a fillet that has been cured and then hot or cold smoked
* Hákarl — Iceland, Greenland or basking shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry

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