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Caviar | Introduction 101

Caviar is a delicacy, which has known roots as far back as the Roman Empire. Today, as then, it is among the most exclusive and expensive of all preserved foods.

The term caviar is believed to have its origins in the Turkish word havyar, which translates to mean salted fish roe.

True Caviar is the salted roe (egg) of the sturgeon. It is literally a salt-cured fish egg. There are other fish eggs on the market (salmon, paddlefish, whitefish, etc.) which are mistakenly referred to as caviar. These products should be referred to as fish roe (salmon roe, paddlefish roe, etc.). The term Caviar should be utilized to refer exclusively to the eggs derived from the sturgeon.

There are three different sizes of sturgeon. The Beluga is the largest sturgeon followed by the Osetra and then the Sevruga. Regardless of the size, which we'll review later, the roe is extracted from the fish in the same manner. First of all, the roe sac must be harvested from the fish. It is best to perform this task while the fish is still alive because if the fish dies and sits for any period of time the membranes surrounding the individual eggs will deteriorate and rupture. Then, with great care, the roe sacs are rubbed over a sieve into a container. They are then flushed with fresh water, drained and graded.

Grading is done by an experienced individual who looks at the consistency of grain (size), color, glean, fragrance and flavor of the eggs.

Once graded, the eggs are then salted. As with every step of the process, this step is a very important one. The eggs, which have been deemed to be of the highest quality, are exposed to a relatively small amount of pure salt. The amount of salt usually ranges between 2.8 and 5% of the egg's overall weight. Eggs prepared in this manner are referred to as Malossol, which translates to mean little salt. You'll usually find the term printed on the tin or jar lid. You will only find it used in reference to sturgeon roe. Lesser quality eggs will utilize a slightly greater amount of salt.

The salt is used to preserve the quality and enhance the flavor of the fish eggs. It also performs a third and very important role. It prevents the eggs from freezing when it is stored at its usual holding temperature of 28 - 32 degrees.

Once salted, the eggs are packed in tins and allowed to cure for a minimum of 2 weeks before being presented to a consumer.

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