Do you remember the first time you had caviar? You’d heard so much about this mysterious luxury: tiny black pearls so exquisite in flavour and texture that people paid through the nose for just a dollop. Then, you tasted it. And there it was: salty and fishy, a little black mound on a little fat pancake with some creamy sour spread. You thought to yourself, is this it? Surely, few people fall for caviar upon first bite. It takes those second, third and fourth bites to get it. Then, it’s like, Woah, where have you been all my life?
We tapped Alexandre Petrossian of the Petrossian fine food company and the grandson of one of the first guys to bring caviar to France; then America, to tell us everything there is to know about fancy fish eggs.
Caviar is one of the oldest delicacies.
Before raw oysters, Champagne, and even truffles have deemed a delicacy, kings and the aristocracy coveted caviar. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Russian tsars were all known to splurge on caviar.
Caviar is not as expensive as you think.
OK, it’s not cheap. But caviar prices have dropped recently as advances in aquaculture, especially domestically, have made farmed sturgeon more available and affordable. Coincidentally, the U.S. was also responsible for a severe drop in prices in the early 19th century, when lake sturgeon was discovered to be plentiful here.
The salmon roe on your sushi is not caviar!
Caviar was originally harvested by Russian and Persian fishermen in the Caspian Sea. The term refers to unfertilized salt-cured fish eggs from different species of sturgeon, including Ossetra, Sevruga and Beluga. Just about all 26 species of sturgeon have been used for caviar.
Caviar is judged on its colour, flavour, texture and maturity.
The finest, most expensive caviars are older, larger eggs that are lighter in colour. Lower-quality caviar is younger, has a less intensely fishy flavour, and is darker in colour. It’s a good thing, too, for caviar newbies, who are more likely to start on the cheaper, milder stuff.
Caviar lasts more than a day.
Because it’s technically cured fish, caviar has a decent shelf-life, even after it’s opened. Store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator, as close to the freezer as possible, and it should stay fresh for about a month.
Caviar is like wine.
Caviar junkies and VIPs will seek out reserve caviar, the rarest and most expensive caviars. In the Middle Ages, many countries had laws that required the finest caviar to be reserved for the monarchy. Reserve caviar would have been that caviar.
Caviar is like Prozac
Historically, caviar was prescribed to alleviate depression. Hey, wouldn’t you feel better if someone gave you caviar? It’s not as fishy as it sounds: recent studies show that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids – caviar is rich in omega-3s – may alleviate symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.
Caviar is like Viagra
It was also prescribed for impotence. Hey, now.