I, as most Russians, could rave about caviar for a very long time. As I mentioned before, I’m lucky enough to live on the West Coast of Canada where salmon roe is easily obtainable during salmon runs. I’m actually double lucky because my home town in Russia is located not far from the Pacific Ocean, on the river Amur, which gets salmon runs that rival those of British Columbia. So I pretty much grew up eating salmon dishes and caviar.
Salmon caviar is good for you. It’s almost all protein, which is used by the body to make muscle tissue. The famous Russian figure skater and Olympic champion Ekaterina Gordeeva mentions in her autobiography that Soviet athletes were given salmon caviar during training to boost strength. Caviar also has all the healthy omega fatty acids normally found in fish. It is very filling, so if you eat those 4 little pieces of bread with caviar in the cover picture for breakfast, and it can easily take you through half a day! Not to mention a sensational gustatory experience when those vibrant salty granules pop against your tongue!
Salmon caviar is very, very easy to make. The hardest part is actually finding the roe. Here in Vancouver, it can be obtained in season (late summer to early winter) from one of the Russian grocery stores. They are usually hiding under the names like “European Foods”. The cost was about $40/kg (that’s about 2 pounds for those using the Imperial system) the last time I checked. It’s also sold off the boats at Steveston dock in Richmond in the fall. Remember that it’s best to use fresh roe (not frozen and thawed) to make caviar. If nothing else is available, frozen and thawed roe can be used, but the results won’t be stellar as a lot of granules will break apart.
Traditionally, caviar is enjoyed on a piece of buttered crusty white bread. I also like to drink heavily sweetened black tea with caviar canapés to offset the saltiness. Caviar is a very versatile topping which can add visual appeal and taste to many dishes, for example Russian crepés (blini). Another common use of salmon caviar is in Ikura sushi.
Recipe: Salmon Caviar
- 1 cup salt
- 4 cups water at room temperature
- salmon roe (up to 1 lb, or 0.5 kg)
Make brine. The goal is to make to dissolve as much salt as possible in water. Combine water and salt, stir until salt is completely dissolved. This may take up to 10 minutes of continuous stirring. If salt is still not dissolved after 10 minutes, add 1 tablespoon of water and stir some more. If a little bit of salt still remains, it’s OK to proceed.
Clean salmon roe. Fresh salmon roe comes in a clear membranous sac. We need to separate individual fish eggs from the membrane without rupturing the eggs. To do that, use a teaspoon or a table knife. Place it behind the eggs (a few at a time), press down carefully and slide along the membrane to push the eggs out of the membrane sac. It’s OK if there’s still some membrane clinging to the eggs.
Cure salmon roe. Add clean cleaned roe to brine. Stir once, very gently, and let stand for 15 minutes. Don’t worry if roe becomes wrinkly and whitish in appearance. This is normal. After 15 minutes, drain brine off. At this point, the caviar is technically ready to eat. I usually let is stand overnight in the fridge before eating. If, after standing in the fridge overnight, caviar still appears wrinkly, add 1-2 tbsp water and stir very gently to let caviar absorb the liquid. This should plump it up.