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Caviar History
It is said that the first people tasting roes were the Azeris and Persians living at the Kura River on the area of the former Persian Empire, (today Azerbaijan). They called them “Chav - Jar” which means a cake of power. The Persians believed that caviar was a medicine, which can cure many diseases, and also a source of energy. Aristotle, the Greek scholar in the 4th century B.C., described caviar as a delicacy made from the roe (eggs) of sturgeon fish.

During the Roman Empire, caviar was such a luxury so that it was presented among garlands of flowers, and trumpets heralded its arrival to the table. The main consumers of caviar in old Russia were the czars during the Russian Empire. Every year Czar Nicholas II received 11 tones of the best caviar as an annual tax from the fishermen of Astrakhan and Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan became a part of the Russian Empire after the Russian - Persian war and now an independent country after Soviet Union collapsed in 1990).

In the second century B.C., a jar of sturgeon had a value equal to 100 sheep. Caviar was not always as expensive as it is today. At the turn of the 20th century it was offered in pubs and bars throughout the US, just as peanuts are today. Historical sources say that 1 kg (2.1 LBS) of French caviar cost less than 20 cents in 1899.  Just before World War I the same kilogram of caviar could be bought for 40 cents, slightly higher than the cost of bread.  Today true caviar is still among the most expensive and exclusive of all preserved foods for a number of reasons: the scarcity caused by over-fishing and pollution, the labor-intensive processing, and its extreme perishability.  Another reason for its expense is directly related to the age and size a sturgeon must reach before it develops its valuable roe.

Various sources insisted that even though beluga varieties were the most expensive, they didn't always taste the best.  Beluga sturgeon are up to 20 feet long and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.  Their eggs are larger than those of other sturgeon, which explains why a jar of beluga (2 ozs) caviar smaller than a can of tuna runs about $120.  This price should be less than the cost of 100 sheep. Today U.S. accounts for about 80% of the world's beluga market.

In France, laws state that only processed roe of sturgeon can be called caviar.  In the US, however, various kinds of fish roe can be sold as caviar as long as the fish type must be indicated on the label.  The major sturgeon species used to produce true caviar today are Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga. Sturgeon, which is nearly extinct, was the source of the prized "golden caviar of the Czars" which got its name from its golden color.

Caviar is graded by color and size, with the lightest and largest being the best and therefore the most expansive.  The sturgeon eggs are graded for color, with 000 indicating the lightest colored and 0 the darkest.  The US and other countries also produce caviar from the roe of salmon, paddlefish, whitefish and lumpfish.  Each type has different standard and price is much lower than “true” caviar.

How To Process And Store Caviars

Caviars are available pasteurized or fresh.  Pasteurization processing kills bacteria and fungi and therefore caviar can be stored a period of time.  Caviar should always be stored at 28 degrees to 32 degrees.  True caviar can be held unopened under refrigeration for four weeks.  Pasteurized caviars will keep in the refrigerator unopened for several months.  Once opened, all caviars should be consumed within two to three days.


 
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