Caviar is becoming rarer and that’s what makes the delicacy so popular – and expensive. The greed for the black treasure of the seas lures even smugglers and criminal gangs on the plan.
Caviar are fish eggs from sturgeon and have been eaten for millennia.
The eggs are cut from the belly of the living sturgeon.
There are three varieties: Beluga, Osietra and Sevruga caviar.
Meanwhile, much of the caviar comes from illegal sources.
It depends on the right cutlery.
Caviar is also obtained from other fish.
“Cake of Joy”
The caviar is an ancient food. However, he was not always considered a status symbol of the rich, but was once folk food. There were many sturgeons in the oceans, the fish and its eggs were regularly on the diet of the poor population.
The name “caviar” goes back to an Iranian tribe that lived on the Caspian Sea and brought the roe of the sturgeon early on the table. “Cav-Jar” – “Cake of Joy”, these early caviar fans called their dish.
“For us,” say the Iranian fishermen, “caviar is more valuable than oil, it is like gold, because if there is no caviar, we have no reason to fish.”
The customer of the delicious black pearls must have spread quickly. Even the great civilizations, such as the Egyptians and the sailor folk of the Phoenicians knew the caviar and appreciated it. In Greek and Roman sources it is called a popular delicacy.
The Russian tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) even tells how 50 fishermen were always assigned to provide him regularly with fresh caviar and the meat of the “royal sturgeon”. The Tsar loved all kinds of caviar dishes.
How the caviar is won
The sturgeon is caught at a depth of about 20 meters with nets. The caviar must be taken from the living sturgeon, otherwise the roe becomes inedible.
Therefore, the fishermen bring the sturgeon ashore immediately after catching. There they slit open the belly of the female and remove the roe. Then the fish is killed and the delicious sturgeon meat processed.
Prior to slicing, the fish should be anesthetized in an animal welfare-friendly manner, which unfortunately happens only rarely.
The processing of caviar from the roe extraction to the can filling must not exceed ten minutes, otherwise the delicacy spoils before it can even reach the consumer.
The harvested roe is pulled over a sieve-like grate, whereby the fish eggs are separated from the sack of eggs.
Sturgeon under water. The caviar is taken from the living sturgeon
A key role in caviar processing is salt, which conserves roe. To bring the aroma of the caviar to full development and to ensure its durability, it needs the exact amount of salt. “Malossol” (Russian: mild salted) is called this exact design.
Then the treated caviar is packaged in airtight cans. The lower part of the can is filled with caviar and a slip lid pressed firmly. This allows excess brine and harmful residual air to escape.
Iran’s traditional caviar cans hold 1.8 kilograms. They are coated from the inside and sealed with a rubber ring. Sometimes the caviar is pasteurized for durability reasons, while it is heated to 60 degrees Celsius. When stored refrigerated, it remains edible for up to twelve months.
The different caviar types are provided with different colored lids. A distinction is made between Beluga, Osietra and Sevruga caviar.
The Beluga caviar is the proverbial black gold. He is considered one of the most expensive and most sought-after delicacies in the world. The roe is silvery color, its taste is creamy, its grain has a diameter of about 3.5 millimeters. Beluga caviar cans carry a blue lid.
The Osietra caviar has a smaller, firmer grain than the Beluga caviar. Its exquisite taste is fine and nutty, its color tint is brown. The tins of the Osietra caviar are provided with a yellow lid.
The Sevruga caviar is considered the cheapest. The roe is very thin-skinned and as a result very sensitive, its aroma strong and spicy. The Sevruga box is marked with a red lid.
Where does the caviar come from?
Most of the world’s caviar comes from the Caspian Sea with its neighbors Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. In addition, there are sturgeon breeding and partly remarkable initial successes of artificial caviar production in North America and Europe.
The breeding farms are all the more important as the illegal trade in caviar increases and endangers the Wildstör stocks. Meanwhile, more than 95 percent of caviar production in the former Eastern bloc countries comes from illegal sources, while the regular market collapses due to increasing predator fishing. For example, caviar production has dropped by around 90 percent over the past 20 years.
As a rule of thumb, you should not buy cheap deals, because the caviar is then mostly illegal and often inferior quality.
Legal caviar is subject to strict export controls, which the buyer can verify using the CITES number on the product. This number guarantees that the caviar has been harvested according to the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of Animals (CITES).
A man holds a sturgeon in the camera. Sturgeons are now successfully bred
It depends on the right cutlery
Caviar is highly sensitive and very perishable. Generally, the fresher, the better. To maintain consistency and flavor, the caviar should be stored at a temperature of minus two degrees Celsius.
Special caviar cutlery and serving bowls made of wood or mother of pearl are suitable for consumption and therefore do not affect the taste of the caviar. Most metal and silver cutlery have a negative taste on the caviar.
As a drink, champagne and dry, noble white wines are recommended.
Dark caviar in a shell. To enjoy the right dishes
Connoisseurs test caviar by taking a portion on the back of the hand and removing it from there with the mouth. If the hand remains odorless and no fishy oil film back, the caviar is fresh.
Good caviar radiates formally. This shine is called “mirror”. The caviar should be of pearly consistency, the grain must not stick together. Corrupted caviar can be recognized quickly by the smell, but at the latest by the fishy-sour taste.
It is important to never buy caviar open or unpasteurised in the glass, because light and oxygen lead to oxidation and thus inevitably to the decomposition of the delicacy.
A large part of the traded caviar is not from the sturgeon. To distinguish it from the exclusive sturgeon caviar, terms such as “caviar substitute” or “false caviar” are common.
Such caviar is obtained, for example, from salmon or sea trout. Her roe has a larger diameter and an orange-red color. Caviar is also harvested from pike, carp or lumpfish.