Saturday, August 15, 2015

Caviar in France. The Different Caviars on French Menus. Sturgeon, the fish, Esturgeon on French menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated 2017
The European sea sturgeon, the common surgeon
No longer common this sturgeon is nearly extinct
With so much excellent farmed, caviar there is no need to order wild sturgeon caviar. Photograph courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Sturgeon and Caviar.
Sturgeon are a whole family of fish and their eggs, the roe, comes from the female sturgeons. The  word caviar itself is derived from the Turkish havyar, which just means egg and it is the sturgeons'  roe, their eggs that are called caviar. In France all other fish eggs, by law, are called œufs de poisson, fish eggs. (The two other products that are called caviar on French menus but are not sturgeon eggs are noted at the end of this post).  From the 20 plus members of the sturgeon family less that ten produce eggs that may qualify as caviar. Outside of France many other fish eggs are also called caviar. Menus and stores will offer whitefish caviar, salmon caviar, lumpfish caviar, and more. All may be delicious; however, none will taste anything like the caviar from sturgeons.

A tin of caviar.
The taste of caviar.
The caviar on the menu, or in the shops, are the unfertilized eggs of wild or farmed sturgeon.  Since caviar is unique, it’s hard to explain and compare the taste even to other fish roe/eggs like that of salmon or lumpfish; sturgeon caviar is different to the others. The springiness of the eggs may be similar; however, that pop with when the caviar eggs break in your mouth with the consequent flood of caviar's unique taste is distinctive. The finest, most expensive caviars are the older and larger eggs that are lighter in color. From farmed caviar, the better eggs will be separated and the name Royal or Imperial added to the label,
Serving Caviar.
The serving of real caviar itself is all about tradition; some traditions are Russian, and most others are French. The very best caviar will traditionally be served on its own, cold in a bowl that has been set in and surrounded by ice. Other,  caviars may be served with small pieces of toast and lemon slices, and others may come with sour cream, chopped onion and chopped hard boiled eggs set alongside. Recipes with a Russian flavor will be served with those small Russian yeast cakes called blinis and accompanying the caviar will be ice cold vodka or champagne.  Today caviar is not confined to the high-end specialist caviar shops; caviar is also sold by Amazon and EBay.

Three blinis, each covered with caviar.
The blinis are displayed on fennel fronds.
On top of each blini is a white chocolate mousse covered with three differently colored berries.
Photograph courtesy of distopiandreamgirl

N.B. Avruga sometimes marketed as Avruga Caviar is a product made from herring and other products and marketed as a  caviar replacement contains no roe (fish eggs of any kind. Avruga is not caviar.

Caviar in France.
Caviar on French Menus and in specialized caviar shops:
Esturgeon Blanc - White Sturgeon Caviar.
Farmed Caviar.
Alverta  Caviar
Sterling Caviar
Caviar d'Esturgeon Blanc.
The White sturgeon or Pacific sturgeon is farmed in Italy, Bulgaria, California and China.
Esturgeon Beluga - Beluga Sturgeon Caviar
Caviar from an endangered wild sturgeon.
Beluga caviar.
Royal Beluga Caviar

Almas Caviar – A white caviar said to come from Beluga sturgeon that are over 100 years old. In the history books but probably no longer extant.  
The Beluga caviar, at this time, comes only from seriously endangered wild fish. 
Beluga Sturgeon fishing is banned in all countries except Iran. This is the most expensive caviar in the world and from a practically extinct fish.  Do not order this caviar and tell the restaurant or shop why you are not buying it.  Maybe, before it is not too late, someone will get the message.
Esturgeon Amour - Amur Sturgeon, Japanese Sturgeon Caviar
Farmed sturgeon from Asia.
Tsar Imperial Shassetra Caviar
Shassetra Caviar.
Chinese kristal schrenki
Siberian/Adriatic sturgeon caviar.
Farmed Sturgeon
Almas Ara   
Baccari Caviar.
Per Se
Rio Frio Caviar.
This sturgeon is a farmed hybrid of the Adriatic Sturgeon crossed with the Siberian Sturgeon. I was told that it has a taste like Sevruga Caviar
Esturgeon Étoilé, Esturgeon Sévruga -The Sevruga Sturgeon, the Starry Sturgeon. Sevruga Caviar.
Farmed and wild sturgeon.
Caviar from the seriously endangered Sevruga sturgeon. Today the sale of wild Sevruga caviar had been banned in the USA and most of Europe; this fish is close to extinction

Brand names of farmed Sevruga sturgeon caviar

Black River Caviar
Caviar Ossetra
Caviar d’esturgeon Guldenstaedtii
Caviar Osciètre Royal.
Karat Caviar  This caviar is considered to be among the top three caviars for taste. It is farmed in Kibbutz Dan in Israel and I am noting it here for its unique manner of farming. Uniquely, these sturgeon farmers have found a method to remove the fish eggs, the caviar, without killing the fish. Next year they may harvest the fish’s eggs again.
Esturgeon Osetr - Danube sturgeon. Osetra caviar.
Farmed caviar
Osetra Imperial
Russian Ossetra Cavi
Royal Belgian Osietra Caviar

The most impressive offering of Osetra caviar that I have ever seen, and tasted, was when I was upgraded to first class on a JAL, Japan Airlines flight. This was a flight from Paris to Tokyo some fifteen years ago.  It was an unexpected pleasure and not only because the upgrade was coach to first class.  When dinner was served, it began with a cart with an enormous bowl of Osetra caviar that went round and round until everyone was sated. The caviar was accompanied by an excellent champagne. That was when I really began to love Japanese cuisine!
Osetra caviar, creme fraiche with a potato blini sitting on top of lobster.
Here you may see the spoon used is made from mother of pearl.  Metal of all kinds is said to affect the taste of caviar.  In the best restaurants you will be offered a mother-of-pearl spoon.
Esturgeon Siberian -Siberian Sturgeon Caviar
Farmed caviar
Baeri Caviar
Caviar de Esturgeon Siberian
Caviar d'Aquitaine
Caviar Diva
Caviar Neuvic
Classic Caviar
Exmoor Caviar
Gold Label Caviar
Huso Domain Caviar
Imperial Baeri
Sterlet Caviar
Tradition Caviar
My first encounter with wild Siberian sturgeon caviar was on a trip to Russia. I bought the caviar from a salesman who came to a trade show where I was working. He insisted that he worked in a store in Moscow that had a permit to sell caviar.  Then and now buying from unauthorized caviar suppliers is a serious problem. These dealers pay for the uncontrolled fishing that has seriously endangered these fish for future generations. At the end of the day, I went to the salesman’s store and it did have a permit. Apart from buying caviar I spent an enjoyable two hours learning about caviar. For those looking to buy caviar from authorized stores, I later found out that all the hotels have the list.
Back in my hotel room, I considered what to do with my first purchase of a whole tin of caviar. Twenty to thirty grams of caviar is usually considered a serving and 50 grams is a gigantic serving. My can of caviar had a net weight of 112 grams!   I called two colleagues who were in the same hotel. They both came running and brought their spoons, plates and glasses from their rooms and so the caviar was shared. One of the diner’s was a self-proclaimed caviar expert, he did really know a great deal, and he also provided the necessary chilled vodka. I fell in love with this caviar and the next day I returned to the store and bought four more tins to take home.  I also spent another two enjoyable hours learning more about caviar and its history The problem was that my hotel room had an incredibly small minibar, just enough for three small bottles of water.  Despite the minute minibar the Moscow weather was perfect for caviar with a temperature just two degrees above freezing.  I hung the four 112 gram tins in a plastic bag outside the hotel window for the two days until I went home. Then, with the help of family and friends within two weeks the contents of the four tins of caviar  had vanished. 
Adriatic/Siberian Sturgeon Caviar
Farmed caviar.
Baccari Caviar - The brand name given to this caviar produced by a farm-raised cross of Adriatic surgeon and the Siberian Sturgeon.

Buying a tin or jar of fresh caviar,
Correct storage is the key to keeping caviar, fresh at home.
Fresh caviar will be packed in cans and jars immediately after it has been sorted. Then the cans and jars are vacuum sealed with about 1% of salt that will lightly cure the caviar and maintain its freshness.  The caviar will be kept at temperatures close to freezing.... but never actually frozen.  When you buy caviar in a shop advise the sales assistant how long your trip home will take and they will provide a  cold traveling pack. You may keep unopened tins or jars of caviar in your refrigerator for five to six weeks. Opened tins or jars will be usable for about one week; however the taste will change after two or three days. Caviar should be stored cold but not frozen.  Freezing will lose much of the texture, especially the popping. All sturgeon caviar may be stored for longer when is made into Malossol caviar.
Other Caviars:
Malossol or Malison Caviar
Malossol or Malison Caviar - Malison or Malossol Caviar on the menu does not indicate a particular caviar. All caviars may have Malossol added to their name; Malossol is a notification that the caviar will have been preserved with additional salt, most with less than 4%.  Many caviar aficionados prefer Malossol caviars. The light salty change in the taste will be noted, but it is not overbearing
Pressed caviar
Caviar Presse – Pressed caviar uses sturgeon eggs that were found to be broken or deformed during the packing process and they are pressed with added salt. Do not confuse pressed caviar with Malossol caviar, Pressed caviar is often used by chefs for decoration as it may be cut into designs and may also be used in cooking. Five-hundred years ago this was the caviar served to the kings of France. Then the methods of careful retrieving the eggs and sorting them were unknown. Despite the age of this method of preserving caviar, it is still requested by some diners.
Pasteurized Caviar
 Pasteurized Caviar.   Here fresh caviar will have been pasteurized and may be kept for months.  This caviar is used in cooking. This caviar will have been made from eggs that look slightly irregular or have been damaged in the collection process. Apart from the aesthetics these eggs are fine and with pasteurization they may be stored for a long time.
Salted Caviar. This caviar may have 6 -7% salt and it has a long shelf life.  However, the salty taste will be noticed immediately. There is no accounting for tastes.
The best caviars
The caviar mavens know that caviar is rated by size and color as well as the production methods. Apart from the taste of the different caviars there are, within each group, the lightest colors with larger size eggs, these are considered to taste the best. These, caviars, will be more expensive, and the name Royal or Imperial will be on the menu or the jar’s label.
Caviar dishes on French Menus:
Les Petits Oursins de Nos côtes, Farcis d’Une Salade de Crustacés, Crème Légère au Caviar Osciètre, Corail d’Oursin.  The edible sea urchin, the sea creature that looks like a ball of spikes.  Here small sea urchins from the coast are stuffed with a crustacean salad.  That will be mostly shrimps and langoustines, the Dublin Bay prawn. The salad is made with light, fresh cream, Osetra caviar and the roe of the sea urchin. The roe of the sea urchin is the only edible part of this creature and on its own has a taste of nuts, butter and the salt from the sea.

Le Tartare de Boeuf aux Huîtres Pochées, Caviar, Ėcume d'Eau de Mer  - Beef tartar served with poached oysters, caviar and decorated with a sea-water foam.
Soupe d'Esturgeon Fumé et Ses Croûtons au Caviar Pressé. soup made from smoked sturgeon served with croutons with added pressed caviar.
Farmed Sturgeon
The fresh sturgeon on your menu in France will come from farmed sturgeon. Wild French sturgeons were fished to extinction over 100 years ago; though a few reports claim that there are still sturgeon in the Gironde River. Today fishing for this sturgeon, even as a bycatch is forbidden, The growing demand for caviar has seen the creation of sturgeon farms  in France and many other countries. The economics of caviar farms include the sturgeon's meat as an important factor. Sturgeon will be on quite a few menus. A female farm-raised sturgeon takes 7-10 years before she produces caviar and so much of the sturgeon on French menus will come from 3-4-year-old males.

Sturgeon on the Menu:
Assiette d'Esturgeon Fumé aux Agrumes – A plate of smoked sturgeon served with grapefruit.
Crabes Impériaux et Céleris avec Leur Caviar Noir d’Esturgeon Blanc. -  Imperial king crab legs served with sticks of branch celery and the black caviar of  the White Sturgeon. The Kamchatka crab may be the king crab here. The Kamchatka crab is considered the tastiest of all the king crabs; however, caveat emptor, on quite a number of menus any king crab may be listed as an Imperial King Crab.
Dos d'Esturgeon Chutney d'Algues et Orange Ail Soja. A thick cut of sturgeon served with a seaweed chutney flavored with an orange, garlic, and soy sauce
Pavé d'Esturgeon à la Bordelaise, Risotto aux Jeunes Légumes et Olives, Séchés. Here a thick cut of sturgeon will be cooked in a red Bordeaux wine with shallots, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, and herbs. The sturgeon here is served with a risotto made with young vegetables and dried olives

A scallop served on its half shell
with potatoes, leeks
and Sterling Royal American sturgeon caviar.
The different sturgeons and their various caviars.
Esturgeon Beluga, Grande Esturgeon and Beluga Caviar -  The Beluga, the Giant Sturgeon or Great Sturgeon and its caviar, Beluga Caviar.  This is the world's largest sturgeon; these fish can weigh up to 800 kilos and reach 6 meters in length.   Its fishing is banned in every country except Iran and it is almost extinct; responsible restaurants, caviar houses and stores should not sell it. When they offer Beluga caviar they may be partners in this fish’s extinction.  This caviar is marketed as Beluga or Royal Beluga caviar
In 2006, the United Nations banned the fishing for the Beluga in the Caspian Sea. Unfortunately, the authorities in Russia on whose coasts, along with Iran, the Beluga are caught doing next to nothing to stop the smuggling trade. In France if offered Beluga refuse it and next time consider choosing another restaurant.
The Beluga sturgeon in the languages of France neighbors and in Russian:
(Catalan – beluga esturió europeu), (Dutch – beloegasteur0, (German -Europäischer hausen, hausen), (Italian - storione ladando), (Spanish -– esturión or beluga), (Russian – beluga).
Esturgeon Blanc- The White sturgeon or Pacific sturgeon. It is farmed in Italy, Bulgaria, California and elsewhere  This was one of the first farmed sturgeons to reached the restaurants, specialist caviar stores and has always had excellent revues.  This sturgeon is not to be confused with the caviar from the, almost certainly extinct, Sterlet sturgeon
The white sturgeon in the languages of France’s neighbors and Russian.
(Catalan – esturió blanc), (Dutch - witte steur), (German - Amerikanischer stör, sacramentostör, weisse stör), (Italian - storione bianco), (Russian -   Белый осётр ), (Spanish - esturión blanco).
Esturgeon Créa, Créa, Esturgeon Atlantique, Esturgeon Baltique or Esturgeon Noir  - The Atlantic Sturgeon or Common sturgeon. In North America, this member of the sturgeon family is called the American Sturgeon. 
Over one hundred years ago this sturgeon called Créa in French was one of the inhabitants of the Gironde River in France. There it was fished to near extinction. The fishermen and women report that in the Gironde River there are still some wild Atlantic sturgeon.  Today fishing these sturgeon, even as a bycatch, is strictly forbidden; even a dead fish must be returned to the river.  Unfortunately, very few French men or women know that they lost their own caviar from over-fishing; it would be a reminder of what may await other fish. In the USA fishing for the Atlantic or American sturgeon has been banned, though its caviar may be imported.  A few New Yorker’s know  and have told me that there is a small population of wild American Sturgeon left in the Hudson River.
Esturgeon Noir, The Atlantic Sturgeon
The Atlantic sturgeon in the languages of France’s neighbors
and in Russian:
 (Dutch - Atlantische steur), .  (German - Atlantischer stör, Baltischer stör), (Italy - storione dell'Atlantico), (Russian - Осетер атлантичний). (Spanish - esturión del Atlántico)
Esturgeon Amour - Amur sturgeon or Japanese Sturgeion.- This sturgeon is found in the Amur river that separates Russia from China. It is also found in the Sea of Japan.  Most of the Amur caviar comes from Asian fish farms.
The Amur sturgeon in German and Russian.
(German - amurstör), (Russian -   амурский осетр - amurskii osetr )
 Esturgeon d'Europe  - The European sturgeon. This sturgeon was fished in France’s Loire Basin in the nineteenth century; unfortunately the European sturgeon is no longer seen there. 
The European sturgeon in the languages of France’s neighbors and in Russian:
(Catalan - esturion), (Dutch -steur), (German - stierl ), (Italian -  storione  ), ( Russian  -      Baltiiskii osetr), (Spanish - sollo real).
Esturgeon De L'Adriatique    The Adriatic Sturgeon or Nacari Sturgeon.  Now mostly seen as a hybrid cross of the Adriatic sturgeon and the Siberian sturgeon that are farmed.  Fishing for the wild Adriatic sturgeon is now entirely forbidden.  The Adriatic sturgeon is a freshwater sturgeon that likes the brackish water close to the sea but does not enter the sea.  With its fishing prohibited the sturgeon fish farms in France and Italy have now created a new caviar from the hybrid cross. This farmed caviar is marketed as Baccari caviar among other names; it is claimed to have a taste and texture similar to Sevruga. I have not yet tasted it and it remains on my to-do list.
The Adriatic sturgeon in the languages of France’s neighbors and in Russian.
(Dutch -  Adriatische steur),  (German - Adriatische stör), ( Italian - storione cobice), (Russian - Atlantiskÿ osetr ),  (Spanish - esturión del Adriático).
 Esturgeon Étoilé, Sévruga  Esturgeon and Caviar Sevruga  –-  The Sevruga Sturgeon or Starry sturgeon;  the source of  Sevruga Caviar. Today the sale of wild Sevruga caviar had been banned in the USA and most of Europe; this fish is close to extinction. Sevruga caviar on menus almost certainly comes from caviar farms.
The Sevruga sturgeon in the languages of France’s neighbors and in Russian:
(Catalan - esturió sevruga), (Dutch - stersteur ), (German – scherg-stör, stör, sternhausen), (Italian – storione stellato).(Russian -  sevrjuga), (Spanish - esturión estrellado), (Russian - sevryuga).

Cauliflower panna cotta topped with a thick layer of scallop gelee and crowned with a generous scoop of Sevruga caviar.
Esturheon Kaluga - The wild Kaluga sturgeon. This sturgeon is another Asian sturgeon from the Amur River basin and the Sea of Japan, The Amur River is the world's tenth longest river, this is the border between Russia and Northeastern China. These sturgeon can reach 5 meters long.

The Kaluga sturgeon in the languages of  France’s neighbors:
(German - Kaluga-Hausen    ), (Italian – Kaluga), (Spanish  -  esturión kalug).

Esturgeon de Danube, Esturgeon Osetr, Osetra Caviar – Osera sturgeon, Osetra sturgeon, Danube sturgeon,  the  Black Sea sturgeon, Persian sturgeon, or the Russian sturgeon. The sale of this wild sturgeon's caviar was banned for a while in the USA; now it seems that the immediate danger has passed and its import has recently been permitted again. 

The Osetra sturgeon or the Danube sturgeon in the languages of France’s neighbors and in Russian.
 (Catalan - Esturió oscietra), (Dutch - Russische steur  ),  (German - Russischer stör, Donau-stör, osietra , stör ), (Italian - storione Danubiano), (Russian - chernamorsko).

Caviar Oscietra by Joël Robuchon.
Caviar served on champagne jelly and crab.
Esturgeon Sibérien  - The Siberian sturgeon and Sterlet Caviar. This fish and its caviar have no connection the almost mythical, and probably extinct, Sterlet sturgeon. This sturgeon is farm raised in France and Spain and the caviar produced is on menus and in the duty-free stores under the brand name Baerii and Tradition among other names

The Siberian sturgeon in the languages of France's neighbors and in Russian.
 (German - sibirischer stör),  (Italian - storione Siberiano),  (Russian -  Сибирский осетр), (Spanish -  esturión de Siberia).

Desietra Siberian Sturgeon Caviar.
 Esturgeon Sterlet -  The Sterlet sturgeon. This is the most famous off the wild sturgeons, now probably completely extinct. The caviar from this fish was said to be reserved solely for Kings and Emperors
The Sterlet sturgeon in the languages of  two of France’s neighbors and in Russian:
(Italian - storione sterleto). (Spanish - esterlete), (Russian - sterlyad).

More farmed sturgeon brand names:
 There are more  farmed sturgeon under different trademarks. As soon as I hear about them or see them they will be added.
Non-caviar caviars on French Menus:
Caviar de Aubergine – Aubergine or eggplant caviar.  A  spread made from grilled or baked aubergines, eggplants,  with the skin removed. The result is mashed and mixed with olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, pepper, and herbs and then served cold, usually as a canapé or part of as a salad. 
 Botargue, Caviar Martégal or Caviar de Martigues, Poutargue or Boutargo in the Provencal dialect. Botargo is not a fish, it is the salted and dried roe of the gray mullet and a Provençal specialty and delicacy. Until a few years ago Botargo was rarely on the menus for tourists. Now it may well be served with a shot of vodka or a glass of champagne like real caviar.  Do not pass botargue by; it has a different and unique taste even if it is very different to real sturgeon caviar.
Thanks for help with the translations of the names of various sturgeon:
Wikipaedia. The Free Enclopaedia.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2015. FishBase.
World Wide Web electronic publication., version (04/2015).

  Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2015
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

1 comment:

  1. We offer the finest Caviar & fine foods to the people who love them. Order imported Caviar, domestic Caviar & many other specialty Caviar products at best prices.