`Good' Caviar

Updated on 23 November 2010 | 0 Comments

You have to be pretty minted to be suffering with caviar ethics in the present economy, but the ethics exist nonetheless.

The problem is that the sturgeon is a particularly overfished fish – almost to extinction, in fact - and to get to their delicious roe, the caviar, you need to kill the fish. It’s an awful waste.

Since 1996 there’s been a voluntary international ban on harvesting wild caviar apart from a few quotas, (Iran is a notable producer), but, of course, it happens.

Otherwise the sturgeon are farmed in fresh water, and an innovative Latvian company has piloted a way to get at the roe without killing the sturgeon or extracting the roe by a kind of Caesarean section, as other farms do.

The method? They gently massage it out of the mother fish.

The massage technique also makes financial sense, as sturgeon aren’t mature enough to earn their keep through caviar production until they reach about four-and-a-half years old.

The Latvian caviar company, Mottra, farms Osetra and Sterlet sturgeon. The Sterlet is the rarer of the two and costs around a third more (28gm for £49/£69). It is sold online and at Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.

They also keep a few albino fish to provide the mythical (for “mythical” read “incredibly expensive”) golden caviar.

Waitrose didn’t stock caviar for a decade for ethical reasons, but reintroduced the product a few years ago. It now sells Mottra at a comparatively reasonable price.

If you’re not fussy where your eggs come from as long as they’re black, salty and washed down with a tall glass of Stoli, you can find lumpfish at any major supermarket for a few quid.

When serving, be careful not to mask the flavour with anything too strong – lemon is out of the question. For the pedantic, use a mother-of-pearl spoon rather than a metal one so that your precious eggs don’t get tainted with a nasty metal taste. Perhaps that’s why topping a smoked salmon canapé with roe has become so popular – you don’t need specialist cutlery to tuck in.

Bored with blinis? Get some good quality fettucine or linguine, stir through olive oil, chopped chives and a tablespoon or so of crème fraiche, and top with a generous ladle of caviar.


Also worth your attention:

Gourmet caviar blog Caviarist

The Caviar Express Blog

Collecting caviar in Andalucía


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