How do you make caviar?
Well, quite obviously the eggs are made by the sturgeon fish, but the farming, harvesting, and handling methods can make a huge difference in the quality of the final product.
Caviar comes from a variety of sturgeon roe, which is typically obtained through 2 caviar harvesting processes. Once the roe is harvested from the sturgeon fish, the roe sacks are rubbed across a stainless steel mesh screen to separate the eggs from the membrane. The eggs are then rinsed and inspected with tweezers to remove impurities, membrane residue, and broken eggs. Lastly, the caviar is weighed, salted, and packaged.
Caviar production is pretty straightforward once the roe is harvested, but that process is much more complex. Below we will discuss the 2 main harvesting techniques, along with which fish produce caviar.
What fish makes caviar?
In order to be true caviar, the fish roe must come from the sturgeon fish, but oftentimes, people consider roe extracted from other fish as caviar too.
With a basic understanding of aquaculture, we can begin to examine the actual harvesting techniques that caviar producers use to get those pearly eggs from the belly of the beast and onto the spoons of customers.
The first principle of caviar harvesting is timing, and going just one or two days off schedule can result in a product that completely misses the mark in terms of quality. The key is to extract the eggs from the female three days before she is ready to spawn, no sooner and no later.
At this stage, the eggs are well developed and do not have excessive amounts of fat on the surface. They have a strong exterior that delivers the desirable “pop” effect that customers crave. While flavors may not be drastically different, the texture will tell all. Mushy caviar is likely the result of a mistimed harvest.
To obtain the freshest possible caviar, the sturgeon must be quickly neutralized and split open. Large roe sacks are then stripped from the interior of the fish in a fast yet precise manner to ensure that eggs are kept intact.
From there, the roe sacks are manually rubbed across a specially-designed mesh screen, which is meant to separate the eggs from the membrane and other impurities. This is a hands-on process requiring a lot of training and experience, which only adds to the costliness of caviar.
For centuries, this has been the universal approach used to harvest caviar. The kill is quick and considered humane by most in the industry, although some producers have introduced harvesting methods that keep the sturgeon alive for much longer. There are sustainability advantages to techniques such as milking, and some farmers do some variation of a C-Section to extract the eggs safely and allow sturgeons to continue living.
Salting, Grading, Packaging, And More
Once the delicate harvest process is complete and the undesirable bits have been extracted from the eggs, they are rinsed with cold water and salted to the desired effect.
Even a little bit of salt serves to tighten up the cells of the egg’s exterior, giving them extra strength and helping to bring out the natural flavors within.
Once salted properly, caviar is categorized into one of two grades. Grade 1 caviar must feature fully intact eggs, with visual indicators of quality such as fine color and a glossy sheen. While grade 2 caviar is usually equal in flavor, it does not have the same aesthetic appeal as grade 1 and is therefore sold at a slightly lower price. The fresher, the better when it comes to caviar of all kinds!
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Video source: Wondastic Tech