the story i have written some years ago. Besides the prices, which i left to compare to what we pay now, the rest is correct. What i have encountered during my active Chefs years, though mostly i nSouth Africa and Russia

Black Gold,part one

Crude oil has long since been given the Black Gold by those who discovered it. Yet, there is another product more richly deserving of the title. Not only is it more expensive then oil, it is rapidly becoming much more rare. What is this marvelous substance? Why, Caviar of course.


While of course other fish also have eggs, only the eggs from three types of sturgeon can be called caviar. It is the Beluga, the giant Oscietre and the most widely known sturgeon, the Sevruga. It is a well-known and accepted fact that the best Caviar is still being produced in Iran. That' s were also the origin of the word comes from. It is ancient Persian and simply means 'bearing eggs'. Others claim it is of Turkish origin, 'havyar ', meaning 'salted eggs'.

Other fishes whose roe is commercially used are the Salmon. The Lumpfish from the Atlantic Ocean around Iceland. In addition, in the United States the Whitefish from the Great Lakes and the Paddlefish from the Mississippi. Roe from trout, whitefish, hackleback are also processed with a varying degree of skill, quality and success. The eggs of the Japanese flying fish produce a golden orange variety of caviar called Tobiko. Keluga is very expensive Chinese caviar .Sea urchins are another exotic variety that has eggs. About 20 sea urchins will produce a kilo of caviar. There is also lobster roe and the eggs of the fresh water crayfish. Snaileggs are apparently the latest and rather expensive craze, but this is getting now into the exotic. In addition, of course, there must be always the odd one out and in our case this is the Texas and the Arizona caviar. These are not fisheggs at all. However, the first are black-eyed peas and the other black beans. And they are prepared and eaten like that, either with tomato sauce or fried with bacon and eggs…

Fair enough, one is not always sure what one buys if you purchase Russian caviar nowadays. In addition, if you take your risk on the black market, well that is what it is. With the breakdown of the USSR, control has been taken, sometimes by force, by people who have very little concern about future prospects of the once mighty Beluga or Sturgeon. They will catch anything that looks like it might produce Caviar and make a quick buck. Subsidies from Moscow have dried up and factories are struggling to pay wages. Moreover, the few government-controlled factories that are still operating according to laid down standards are struggling to make ends meet. This is rather hard to understand, considering the prices good caviar fetches in stores and super-markets even in Moscow. Never mind in the duty free shops or, in keeping up with the computer age, via the Internet.
It is therefore strongly recommended that you buy your caviar only from a reputable dealer or caviar house. Do not hesitate do ask for documentation if you are worried about the origins of your purchase. Do not buy caviar from unreliable dealers or from vendors who operate their 'shop' out of a plastic bag. Chances are good that you not only bought contraband products, you are also not sure about the quality of the caviar.
If you are so lucky to get hold of an original 1.8 kgr tin of caviar you can check very easily if the product has been handles by a craftsman. Insert a thin wooden stick into the center of the tin. In addition, turn it. If the stick does not move, it is clear that the eggs have been properly drained and are well lubricated. The stick must also touch the bottom of the can. It is practice to fill up the can with only about 1/2 caviar and put at the bottom the skin (lining) of the eggsack to fill up the can.

Producing caviar is very simple. Or it seems. The roe is removed from the fish as soon as it is caught. It is critical that the fish should not suffer. If he does he will secret a chemical that completely destroys the flavor and the aroma of the roe. The cellular tissue that holds it together is discarded. Then the roe is slightly salted and filled into glass jars or tins. No preservatives or conservatives are supposed to be added. Neither is the caviar to be sterilized or even worse, pressed. Caviar must be always stored in a refrigerator and once opened should be eaten within a day or two.

More scientific ways of extracting the eggs without killing the sturgeon ('milking') have been developed. The sturgeons are anaesthetised with a single blow to the head. And the eggs are removed. However, these procedures are not being implemented in the poaching methods.