It is still not really clear where the name caviar comes from. The word «Cav-Jar» (dish of joy) comes from an Iranian tribe that used to live by the Caspian Sea and was among the first to dine on sturgeon roe. Other theories about the origin of the word include, for example, that the word caviar (Khaviar in Persian) comes from the Persian «Khag-viar» – a term used in the central Persian - speaking region for «small black fish egg».
It all began in the Caspian Sea which is still one of the main sources of Russian caviar today. But it did not take long before those seafaring people, the Phoenicians and Egyptians, also learned to appreciate the dish of joy. Soon the market for the delicious black pearls extended right around the Mediterranean.
Over the years, because of its unusual origins and limited availability, this «black gold» became a culinary highlight at various royal courts.
With the means of transport that were available at the time (primarily horse drawn carts), it was especially difficult to transport caviar without damaging it. Consequently, the price of this delicacy rose quickly. The Russian Tsar was enchanted by this «new» foodstuff, and the German and Italian courts valued the unique flavour of this expensive fish product very highly, too.
The British Royal family also had a long-standing liking for the sturgeon. As long ago as 1324, King Edward II decreed that any sturgeon found within the coastal waters of the kingdom belonged to the monarch.
We have just one species of fish to thank for caviar - the sturgeon.
The commonest species are the sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) – the smallest – the Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii), the Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) and the Beluga (Huso huso), the largest species of sturgeon. As a result of overfishing, poaching and destruction of their habitat, stocks of sturgeon in the wild have fallen dramatically over the last 20 years. Since 1998, all 27 species of sturgeon have been protected under the Washington Convention on the conservation of species (CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Caviar is rich in easily digestible protein that provides our body with essential amino acids that it cannot produce itself. However, caviar is also valued for other useful substances: it contains Vitamins A, B, D and E and many minerals.
Caviar is even said to be an effective aphrodisiac and to have healing qualities. Naturally, this fact has not been scientifically proven.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENJOYING CAVIAR AT ITS BEST
- Caviar must be kept cool after opening to preserve its flavour and freshness.
- Refrain from using silver cutlery, as this can affect the fine flavour of the caviar.
- The best temperature for storage is at -2° or maximum +2°C. It is best to enjoy your caviar fresh, as soon as possible after opening. If you keep it for longer in less than perfect conditions, the flavour and consistency may be impaired.
- Champagne goes extremely well with caviar. Vodka is also a traditional accompaniment. If you do not care for either, you cannot go wrong with a light white wine.