|The story of caviar is perhaps older than the story of civilization itself. The use of fish roe as food was common in the most primitive of societies and the cured form we are familiar with today probably originated thousands of years ago in China. The early Persians greatly enjoyed caviar and thought it had "medicinal qualities."
Ancient Classical Greek and Roman literature contains several references to thepresentations of the beautiful black caviar served at banquets. Caviar even survived in the darkness of collapsed civilization. In the Middle Ages, Feudal Lords and Popes were treated to the pleasures of "Royal Fish" and its roe. In England, sturgeons and caviar were reserved exclusively for the King.
When the first Europeans came to America they found sturgeon to be the most common fish on the North American continent. Near the beginning of 19th century, the United States was the world's major source of caviar and American caviar stood for 90% of the total world supply.
The American caviar industry in the United States started when Henry Schacht, a German immigrant, opened a business catching sturgeon from the Delaware River. He produced his caviar with German salt and exported much of it to Europe. About the same time, sturgeon fisheries were developed on the Columbia River on the US west coast.
|Caviar was so common in America it was served in saloons, actually given away free with beer, to encourage people to get thirsty and drink more. Hudson River sturgeon were so plentiful that the meat was called "Albany beef." A nickel would get you a serving of the best caviar available in New York, and the most lavish establishments, including the Waldorf Astoria, offered free-flowing caviar as an "interesting" opening to an elegant meal. American Caviar was also a very common food in California during the gold rush days, found in virtually every saloon and restaurant. By 1910, the little-understood lake sturgeon was nearly extinct and American production was stopped.
In 1925, the Caspian Sea fisheries began commercial production as we know it today. But the pendulum is once again swinging back to the US when it comes to current and future production.
Some 25 species of sturgeon exist globally, but only in the Northern Hemisphere. The Caspian Sea is home to the most popular members of the European and Asiatic families of sturgeons. Family Acipenseridae: Beluga, the largest and most rare, yields large translucent golden-grey eggs. Osetra has medium sized golden brown eggs and Sevruga with predominantly steel-grey eggs. Two nations, Russia and Iran, bordered the Caspian Sea and managed the fisheries until the breakup of the Soviet Union. At this time seven ind ependent nations border the Caspian Sea and are engaging in a great deal of unregulated production.
It is against that background that American produced caviar will likely dominate the world stage again in the future.
Following is a descriptive list of caviars made from American fresh water fish:
- American Lake Sturgeon Caviar - Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser Fulvescens) mature sexually in 15 to 20 years and can run upwards of l00 pounds. They spawn once every 5 to 7 years and yield about 25% of their body weight in roe. The caviar is comparable in size, color and flavor, to Russian beluga.
- American Hackleback Sturgeon Caviar - Hackleback Sturgeon (Scaphiryhnchus Platoryhnchus) is native to the great river systems of the American Midwest and is much faster growing and smaller than most sturgeon, reaching only about 38 inches at maturity. The roe is dark, of medium size and has a sweet, buttery, nut-like flavor.
- American Paddlefish Caviar - Paddlefish (Polyodon Spathula), often called "Spoonbills," are a cousin to sturgeons and yield roe ranging in color from pale through dark steel-grey and golden "osetra brown". The caviar is smooth and silky with a rich flavor.
- American Bowfin Caviar - (Amia Calva), better known by its Cajun name "Choupique" is not related to, but is even more ancient than the sturgeons. This bony fish yields a black roe with a distinctive flavor and makes a good, less expensive substitute for sturgeon caviar. (Unlike sturgeon, bowfin roe will turn red if heated.)
- American Salmon Caviar - Alaskan salmon, known worldwide, travel to the sea after hatching and later return to their native fresh water rivers to spawn. They produce large red eggs because of that time spent in salt water and the diet it provides. Chinook and Coho salmon were also transplanted from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes some 30 years ago. These hatchery-raised fish produce large orange eggs due to their exclusive freshwater diet while retaining the intense salmon flavor.
- American Trout- Trout are indigenous to the Great Lakes and have beautiful yellow eggs about the size of salmon. The soft, juice-filled berries have a very delicate flavor.
- American Whitefish Caviar - Whitefish is another salmon type specie native to the Great Lakes. Crisp sparkling yellow eggs burst with fresh flavor. The naturally mild taste lends itself well to the flavor-infusions and smoking processes.
- Tobikko - Flying Fish roe, popularly known as Tobikko, is very versatile in recipes. No longer the exclusive property of Sushi Chefs, the shiny, crunchy, vibrant orange and the dense black versions of this Caribbean fish roe are a total delight for the chef.
Buy: Black Bowfin Caviar, Golden White Fish Caviar, Sturgeon Caviar, Paddle Fish Caviar, Salmon Caviar
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