A Caviar Primer
The Origin and Evolution of Caviar
Sturgeon originated in the Caspian Sea region. Fisherman from neighboring countries (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan) frequently caught sturgeon, the fish were well known, and even inexpensive. It was at the beginning of the 20th century with the expulsion of the Russian aristocracy and their emigration to France that caviar was introduced to Europe. It was in fact the Ritz Hotel in Paris that made caviar famous and glamorous. This fame caused the price to rise and sturgeon fishing became so common, they almost became extinct. Because of this, at the end of the 90s, it became illegal to sell wild sturgeon in an effort to save this fish from extinction.
With the fall of the USSR, technicians with the necessary skills left the Soviet Union and ventured out into the west to sell their caviar know-how. One of these technicians traveled to Uruguay. And there, in the mid 1990s, begins the history of the sturgeon farms.
Since 2005, all caviar commercially produced must come from a sturgeon farm.
Caviar Available in the Global Market
In general terms, caviar is like wine. The purity of the raw materials (the genetics of the sturgeon), its nutrition and production (including its surroundings), dictate the quality of the product. At the end of the day, what counts is consumer preference, and the price paid for caviar is not necessarily determined by flavor, but instead by rarity and difficulty in obtaining (i.e. Beluga caviar).
Most Common Caviar Types
Siberian ( Baerii) – most produced and appreciated at a commercial level due to its balance of quality and price and for that reason it is most well known in France and in gastronomic circles. (Produced and marketed by Caviar Polanco).
Osetra (Gueldenstaedtii) – is growing in production because of its larger and more golden roe than Baerii caviar. It is more expensive. (Produced by Caviar Polanco, for release in 2018).
Transmontanus (white sturgeon). Raised mostly in Italy and the US. Smaller and darker roe. (Considered of average quality).
Kaluga, Schrencki y Duaricus – small. (Considered average to low quality).
Beluga – the most well known worldwide because it was fished in
the Caspian sea. Today it is rare and because it is so difficult to
produce and hardly exists, it is (the most expensive).
Sevruga – Well known and of high quality but there are few farmers
that raise them. (Expensive and with many counterfeits on the
Sterlet – small roe caviar. Hard to find and considered very elegant and feminine. (Produced by Caviar Polanco, for release in 2018).
Differentiation Between the Products
Caviar is evaluated for four basic characteristics.
Size - The larger the better.
Color – Can range from golden, through various shades of gray, brown and black. Clearer is considered more rare and is priced higher, even though not necessarily a sign of quality.
Flavor – Should be nutty, buttery, lightly salted, rich and oily while it remains in the mouth. Should contain very little salt (3%-4%).
Texture – Each individual roe is identifiable but all are very smooth.
In bulk cans, its shelf life is 18 months. This varies, however, depending on how its packaged. Normally, per can (from 30 g to 250 g), its shelf life is 3-6 months. Once the can is opened, it should be consumed within ten days.
General Context of the Production and Consumption of Caviar at a Global Level
The principal producers of caviar are Italy, France, the US, China, Russia, Bulgaria, Israel, and Uruguay. Worldwide production is estimated at 200 tons.
Wild sturgeon fishing has been prohibited since 2005 because all caviar should be “cultivated” on a farm.
Caviar production and marketing is regulated by the United Nations. All of the producers must maintain and show on their products a CITES certificate and registration number. (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). www.cites.org
Polanco caviar products all have and show a CITES registration number.
The principle consumers of caviar are the European Union (mainly France, Switzerland, and Germany), the US, Russia, Japan, Singapore, as well as others, but on a much smaller scale.
60% of caviar is consumed in the month of December.
The period of harvest is mainly in the winter.
After extraction from the sturgeon, caviar ideally is left to “mature” for
2 or 3 months.
Northern hemisphere producers produce principally from November
to April. However, they produce year round in temperature controlled environments, although the heaviest production is in the winter.
For Uruguay, the only producer in the southern hemisphere, production is from May to October (winter in the southern hemisphere). After the maturation period required for caviar to be its best, only caviar from Uruguay would be freshest at the end of the same year of its production.
Uruguay - Its Place among the World’s Caviar
Uruguay has a long tradition as a producer of caviar, being one of the first to produce it in captivity.
Today only the sale of farmed caviar is possible since wild caviar is prohibited.
The caviar of Uruguay is sold in the best stores in the world (including Fauchon of Paris, but there are many others).
The color and flavor of Polanco caviar is unique due to the terrain and the amount produced with raw materials fresh from the region.
Sturgeon with Russian genetics. (Lena river).
Unique Characteristics of Polanco Caviar
Siberian: Roe with a 2.5 - 2.9 mm diameter; colors that range from dark tones to grey to even light brown. A particularly nutty flavor with a hint of dried fruit (currently on the market).
Sterlet: a smaller roe, 2.3 - 2.6 mm diameter with light tones of grey or silver and a flavor reminiscent of nutmeg.
Oscetra: Roe with a diameter between 3.0 - 3.2 mm. Colors ranging from gold to ocher. A flavor reminiscent of butter.
Why Caviar from Uruguay?
Our caviar has certain unique characteristics:
We are the only farm in the world where you can obtain caviar that is 100% natural, almost wild. Uruguay has farms that are extremely clean and ideal in temperature for sturgeon habitats. If you look on a map, there is no other country with the same conditions given Uruguay’s latitude. Argentina does not
have clean enough water, in Chile the waters are too cold, in Brazil,
too hot, and the part closest to Australia is desert. In addition to the
water quality, the Rio Negro is a river with many nutrients, and therefore opaque water, which is best for sturgeon. For this reason it is most natural for the sturgeon to pass its life in the Rio Negro. This is beneficial for production as well, because for example, the water is not recirculated, it is well oxigenated and it always flows down river.
The only producer in the southern hemisphere. We harvest significant quantities of caviar when no one else is producing it. Caviar needs 3-4 months for maturation to be not too new and not too mature. 70% of the caviar that is consumed is at the end of the year. Uruguay is the only country in the world where perfect maturation comes at the end of the year.
The portion. We produce our own food. With this we obtain fresh product, adequate to our needs and with a particular flavor resultant of the raw materials of this region, including Krill from the Antarctic. Russian recipes adapted to our habitat.