What is caviar?
Caviar is unfertilized fish eggs called roe that comes from the sturgeon fish; and, it can only be called caviar when the roe comes from this specific type fish.
Any other roe is just called roe, since it doesn’t comes from the sturgeon fish.
A good analogy to help understand this is Champagne. It is technically a sparkling wine, but only when it comes from Champagne region in France can it be called Champagne. Everything else is just sparkling wine.
The finest caviar used to come from wild sturgeon fish located in the Caspian and Black Sea, but nowadays all caviar comes from farm-raised Sturgeon from all around the world.
Why is caviar so expensive?
There’s many factors to consider but a basically because it is a very long, expensive and labor-intensive process to produce sturgeon. Growing them from baby fish and maintaining them for years can be quite a lot of manual labor.
For instance, a female sturgeon can take from 7 to 20 years to produce roe and during all these years the farm needs to take care of every need of the animal.
Also, the female sturgeon only produces eggs that are acceptable quality once every few years and some believe that like fine wine, the older the sturgeon the finer the caviar.
Harvesting the Roe
Two types of harvesting can occur.
The sturgeon could remain alive while the roe is squeezed out of them. This is more rare and includes a plethora is complexities. It is usually done in Europe where they may not have access to man fish.
The other way is by slaughtering the fish, usually in a humane way to instantly kill the fish so that it feels no pain. It is most similar to the method of ike jime which delivers a foreign object directly to the brain instantly killing the fish. This is how they do it at the local Northern Divine farm in BC.
Once the roe is removed from the fish, the processing of the caviar can begin.
The eggs are rubbed out of the roe sack, mixed with salt, and voila! Edible and delicious right away!
The caviar will be ideally stored at -2 C and under ideal circumstances can be stored for approximately 6-12 months in perfect ideal conditions.
(The rule of thumb is once it hits the consumer’s fridge, you will have a 3 week shelf life. This is because household refrigerators are not controlled well, and even if set to a colder temperature are constantly being opened and closed creating temperature fluctuations which are not good for the storage of caviar.)
Finally, the demand is bigger than the supply so that increases the market price, hence super inflated prices.
That’s why caviar is considered a true delicacy and usually served at festive or elegant occasions. Or on just another Tuesday night for the people that can afford it.
How to eat caviar?
First things first, don’t start digging in with your spoon and eat it. That would be a huge faux pas.
Well, you don’t eat caviar with metal spoons to begin with. Silver or stainless steel reacts with the caviar and gives the caviar a metallic flavor that is not very pleasant.
Serving Fine Caviar
Caviar is ideally eaten with an innate spoon. Technically plastic would pass the test, but you spend a lot of money on the caviar, so eating with a plastic to-go spoon would ruin most people’s experience.
Most people opt for spoons made out of mother of pearl (a type of shell), bone or gold. This is simply because they don’t react with the caviar.
Secondly, you eat the caviar in small quantities and really take time to appreciate the flavor of it. So it should be a tiny spoon. Especially because its pretty rich tasting. And also from a price point factor, you may want to take some extra time to savor the taste.
Now you need something to put the caviar on. We call these a canapé. And for that you would use toast, potatoes or blinis. All these options are fairly neutral in flavor and they play a supporting roll to the actual caviar.
And to put along with your caviar the most classic toppings are crème fraîche, red onion, chives, capers, egg yolk, egg whites and/or lemon. But remember, you don’t have to use all of them.
Caviar is always served on ice and usually you would drink very chilled and dry champagne with it. For those who don’t drink alcohol, sparkling water can work well!
The Experience of a Lifetime
Next time you find yourselves at a fancy dinner or festive occasion, you got the 411 downloaded now, so be confident! Act like you belong, and have fun! After all, what is good food without good people to share the experience with!
Tag us in your next caviar experience @7seasfishmarket on instagram. #sturgeoncaviar #northerndivinecaviar #fancycaviar
Bonus little fun fact
A fine caviar should never taste too salty. Salt is added to the caviar to extend the shelf life, so, the more salt that is added, the longer the caviar will last.