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Caviar: A Few Notices, Curiosities And Some Advice For Tasting It (Part A)

A few notices, curiosities and some advice for tasting caviar a delicacy originating in Russia but nowadays imitated and produced nearly everywhere (Part 1).

Like it or not, everyone knows that it is a Russian specialty, inseparable from vodka… The word, but, is of Turkish origin: "Kawiar" became "caviale" in Italian, then "caviar" in French, all this before the Russians even arrived upon the Volga River or the Caspian Sea in the 16th century. Before the word entered into the Russian lexicon, roe from all fish, including the sturgeon and salmon, was referred to as "ikra", a word of Slavic origins decidedly.

The first to consume caviar were Muslims living in the Caspian region, who had to content themselves with the eggs due to their religion prohibiting them from eating sturgeon meat. There is no question, but, that the Russian czars and their subjects made up for lost time in consuming sturgeon roe. After the fall of the Soviet Union caviar was no longer produced exclusively in Russia and Iran but also in Azerbaidjan, Kazakistan and Turkmenistan. In other words, it was also produced by the nations along the banks of the Caspian Sea who rushed to take advantage of the prolific riches of the Caspian. According to experts, the pressure exerted by these nations combined with the ecological disasters of the Volga River and the Caspian Sea will bring about, in 7-10 years the near-complete disappearance of black-caviar. Delight in it while it lasts!

Caviar can be fresh, not sterilized, thereby fully preserving its flavour. Fresh caviar, but, must be kept refrigerated and has a limited duration, from 2 to 6 months, depending on the type of manufacturing. Sterilized caviar has a long preservation time, it usually comes in a glass jar and can be kept for a longer time at room temperature, but it certainly loses its flavour. The eggs of the Beluga are the largest and reach 2.5 millimetres in diameter. They are considered the most valuable when they have clear shadings; those of the Sevruga are instead the smallest (about 1 millimetre), but they are characterized by an enhanced flavour; Osetra (about 2 millimetres) vaguely recalls the taste of walnut, has a clear green-grey colour and a gilded quality. Sterlet caviar was only eaten by the families of the Scià and the Zar.

The sturgeon (Acipenser sturio) is a prehistoric lance like fish with very small, fine scales and an elongated snout with four tactile feelers at the tip. The beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) is the largest, weighing up to 400 Kg and measuring up to 4 meters in length. It is extremely rare (fewer than 100 are caught per year) and varies in colour from a clear grey to black. The osetra sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii colchicus) weighs up to 200 Kg and measures up to 2 meters. The sevruga sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus) is very thin, weighing up to 30 Kg and measuring up to 1.5 meters. Beluga caviar can comprise up to 15% of the sturgeon’s weight! The beluga sturgeon is a wild and robust fish and is hard to catch. It travels to the streams to lay its eggs only every 2-4 years.

David Russo, VMD, PhD

Veterinary Scientist, Gourmet Lover and Amateur Cook
high-net-worth-gourmet.com GOURMET MEATS AND SEAFOOD

mailto:david_russo@high-net-worth-gourmet.com CONTACT US

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