History of caviar
Caviar is sturgeon eggs that have been salted and allowed to mature. The word comes from the Italian caviale, which is itself derived from the Turkish kawyar. It appears as early as 1432 in Rabelais' Pantagruel, in which caviar is described as the choice hors d'oeuvre; Colber organized the production of caviar in the Gironde using the sturgeons passing through the estuary. But the caviar we know today is Russian. It was introduced to France in the 1920s following the exile of Russian Princes. Charles Ritz formally launched caviar by putting it permanently on the menu at his hotel.
The sturgeon lives in the sea but returns in winter to estuaries throughout temperate regions of Asia to lay its eggs. Today the Caspian Sea provides 98% of the world's caviar. The sturgeon was still common in the Gironde at the beginning of the century, but it has become so rare that fishing for it is now prohibited.
The Soviet Union was for a long time the sole producer of caviar. But since 1953, factories on Iran's Caspian coast have produced 180 tons annually; Russia produces 1800 tons every year.
The eggs constitute about 10% of the female's body weight. After they have been removed they are washed, sieved, put into brine, drained, and finally packed into tins. There are two sorts: caviar in grains and pressed caviar. The name "red caviar" is sometimes used incorrectly for salmon eggs.
Sold fresh or sometimes pasteurized, there are three types of caviar, differentiated by size, color, and species of sturgeon.
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