WHAT IS CAVIAR?
The name comes from the Persian term for “cake of power” since it was reserved only for kings. Traditionally it’s made by curing the unfertilized roe (eggs) of wild sturgeon. Famous for being expensive, it’s actually quite difficult to get these fish eggs. An adult sturgeon can grow up to 3,000 lbs in size and is as intelligent as a dolphin. Before a person is allowed to become an Ikrjanschik (caviar maker) they have to apprentice for 10 to 15 years. Among other skills they must be able to judge quality by the sound of the fish eggs rubbing against each other. In terms of manufacturing styles there are 4 – pasteurized, low salt, salted and pressed (processing the damaged eggs). Traditionally imported caviar is classified by fish species – Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga. Recently the USA has introduced a cheaper version using paddleback fish.
WHERE DOES CAVIAR COME FROM?
The majority of it comes from the Caspian and Black seas. Originally farmed by Russian and Persian fisherman, in the 1800s American-made sturgeon roe was cheaply produced and exported around the world. Today 1 ounce of caviar can cost up to $75 per ounce (30 grams).
WHEN IS CAVIAR IN SEASON?
This delicacy is available year-round due to being salted and tinned. However a female sturgeon will only spawn once every 3 years (between April and May) in the northern hemisphere.
IS CAVIAR ONE OF THE DIRTY DOZEN? (MERCURY)
No it is not. While predator fish are typically higher in mercury, the eggs of sturgeon are not.
IS RED CAVIAR REALLY CAVIAR?
Unlike other types, red eggs are actually harvested from salmon and trout. Technically only mature sturgeon roe qualifies as caviar. Salmon roe is not as expensive as sturgeon roe and so is much more readily available.