Caviar

Caviar (from the Persian 'khāviār') is a food prepared from sturgeon roe. Known since antiquity, it is known for its delicacy and its scarcity.

The sturgeon is the survivor of a species which emerged almost 300 million years ago. A migratory fish, which alternates between fresh and saline water, it lives mainly in the rivers and lakes of the northern hemisphere in the temperate climates of Europe, Asia and America.

Devoid of scales, it has a skeleton consisting of bony plates and cartilage. Adult, and depending on the species, it can measure several metres in length and weigh over a ton. When fresh caviar from wild sturgeon was still being marketed, the three best-known varieties - Sevruga, Oscietre, and Beluga - came mainly from the Caspian Sea. In addition, the Amur River, the natural border between Russia and China, was the place of fishing and production of Kaluga (Huso Dauricus, a cousin of the famous Beluga Huso Huso) and Amur River sturgeon (Acipenser Schrenkii).

When commercial breeding began in the '80s, other, easier to raise, varieties were preferred, particularly the Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser Baerii) because this variety reaches sexual maturity earlier, as does the white sturgeon.
Then, varieties of the Caspian Sea (except the Sevruga, which is very difficult to raise) and the Amur river were brought in to enrich the offer in farmed caviar.

The farmers' experience is now such that the quality of their fresh caviar no longer suffers comparison with its illustrious predecessors.

From Sturgeon to Caviar

Sturgeon may live for 100 years, and only reach sexual maturity at the age of seven, or seldom before the age of fifteen in the case of the Beluga. This is where the art of the breeder lies: determining the optimum maturity of the female to harvest the valuable roe, in the ovary which contains the eggs. It is therefore sometimes preferable to wait another year or two for a future maturity, if the requirements are not met.

It is at this stage that the expertise of the Master of Caviar is required, particularly as regards salting and selection before placing it in the original carton (1.8kg). This is the start of a maturation period lasting for at least several weeks, during which time the salt penetrates slowly by osmosis to the inside of each grain and allows the subtle transformation of the aroma. The manufacture of caviar is an art which requires expertise and patience. That is what gave rise to the legend of the most precious and exceptional of dishes: caviar.

From Wild to Farmed

The caviar market has evolved considerably over the last few years. To prevent the disappearance of wild sturgeon from the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, the importing of wild caviar is now banned in the European Union. Many breeding farms have been developed throughout the world, particularly in Europe, Asia and America, where sturgeon have always existed in the wild.
The quality of caviar from these farmed fish has greatly improved since the '90s, and is now reaching a quality worthy of fresh wild caviar, particularly as regards the Oscietre.

For us, the essential criteria for the quality of caviar, are:

  • the variety of the sturgeon and its genetic heritage;
  • the availability and quality of the water source, and its recycling;
  • the population density of the fish (Kg/sq. m);
  • the water temperature, which promotes growth;
  • breeding in a natural environment, as opposed to indoor breeding;
  • the reproduction of natural conditions during spawning (including the ability to swim against the current);
  • the farmer's ability to produce feed, and to vary it according to the seasons and the sturgeons' needs.
  • The individual, computerised monitoring of each female, with all biopsies and each stage of its life recorded.
  • The'know-how' of the Master of Caviar, in particular at the salting stage.

Given the number and the complexity of these criteria, it is clear that simply the country of origin of farmed fish is no longer a guarantee of quality! Only the in-depth study of the characteristics of each breed farm allows us to make our selection.

For example, even though it is not a traditional producing country, one of the fish farms which best responds to these criteria is located in the southern hemisphere, in Uruguay. www.blackrivercarviar.com.uy.

Taking our professional advice, just select your caviar directly from one of our sites: the Packaging Laboratory in Mulcent (78) and, very soon, in our Paris showroom (Paris, 8th arrondissement).

Buying caviar on-line