Sturgeons and caviar

The sturgeon is a prehistoric animal. It is also named as a ‘living fossil’ to emphasize the rarity of its existence. Unlike humans, this animal existed even in the era before the dinosaurs. Nowadays, the family (classified as Acipenseridae) consists of twenty-five species which have their own characteristics. One of those characteristics is their length which varies between forty centimetres and over five meters. The sturgeon resides mostly in cold or temperate waters of the northern hemisphere.

However, almost ninety percent of all the caviar originates from three different species from the Caspian Sea. The most famous one is the Beluga. This sturgeon can reach a length over four meters and can weigh more than a ton (or 157 stone). The colour of the roe varies between light and dark grey, has a firm body and contains a core or ‘eye’.

Secondly, there is the Oscietra which can reach a length of up to two meters and weighs about two hundred kilograms (31 stone). The dark brown to grey colour of the roe with mostly an olive green or gold shimmer is a distinguishing feature of this specie. The taste can be defined as a delicate and nutty flavour.

Finally, the last sturgeon is the Sevruga which is also the smallest one. It reaches less than one and a half meters and weighs often less than twenty-five kilograms (3 stone). The colour of the roe is between light to dark grey with a typical scent. Furthermore, it is the most common type of caviar.

However, real caviar has to be salted very lightly before it can be distributed.

The term ‘Malosol’ on a caviar tin is only given when less than five percent salt is added. However, it is recommended to add between three to four percent to get the ideal flavour. With the flavour and texture in mind it is strictly prohibited to bring caviar into contact with (base) metals. As a solution people often use mother of pearl or glass cutlery but gold and ivory are the more exclusive options.

Cultivated

Over 175 countries have prohibited the catch, import and export of wild sturgeons during a meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) in 2009.

Persian Caviar anticipated quickly before the regulation entered into force. This was possible due to the improvement of the overall quality of the farms. Persian Caviar has sold only farmed caviar from that moment on. Our caviar is currently farmed in China.

Although China is not close-by, the process from sturgeon egg to fish and in the end the caviar is closely monitored by Mr Akef. The quality is already measured during the first step where he selects the best sturgeons for farming.

Furthermore, he is monitoring the surroundings. The farm simulates the original habitat of the sturgeon almost perfectly since the farm is situated in the Thousand Islands Lake. An important detail is that it is an outdoor farm. Unlike the indoor farmed sturgeons outdoor farmed sturgeons’ profit from the natural resources exposed to them. The latter has a positive impact on the quality of the caviar.

Wild

The Iranian fishermen from the village of Shilat are sailing at first light to world’s largest inland sea with a coastal line of up to 7.000 kilometres; the Caspian Sea.

They are casting their nets in the peaceful silence waiting for the catch.

The sturgeons caught on ten to twenty metres depth are brought to land via transfer points.

The wooden buildings above the water are where the caviar experts are processing the catch. The process is carefully executed with utmost respect for the animal and to maintain the quality. The preparatory work to obtain the highest quality is an ancient and secret family tradition.

However, to ensure the best quality the previous mentioned tradition is done in less than nine minutes. The freshness, hygiene and perfection decide how the caviar is labelled.

The local government is supervising and verifying the quality in accordance with their strict laws.