Salmon Caviar

Salmon and Sturgeon Caviar – Photo by Thor

Salmon caviar was originated about 1910 by a fisherman in the Maritime Provinces of Siberia, and the preparation is a modification of the sturgeon caviar method (Cobb 1919). Salomon caviar has found a good market in the U.S.S.R. and other European countries where it is known as “red caviar” to distinguish it from the sturgeon or “black caviar”.  Although several attempts have been made to manufacture salmon caviar in the United States, only a few firms in the Pacific Northwest have operated successfully on a commercial scale. Their product is marketed mostly in New York and other eastern cities.  A salmon-canning firm operating in the Bristol Ba area of Alaska also prepares salmon caviar, principally for export.

To be suitable for caviar, the salmon eggs must be absolutely fresh, free from blood, and of clear color and good consistency.  Large eggs do not make good caviar. Most salmon caviar is prepared from the roe of silver and chum salmon, which have been found best suited for the purpose (Jarvis 1935).

The egg sac is split and rubbed gently over a table stand with a top of half-inch mesh screen.  This mesh is just large enough to let the eggs drop through, separating them from the membrane. The eggs fall onto an online screen of fine-wire mesh leading into a large shallow box.  The eggs drain on the screen and finally slide into the box.  The eggs are cured in brine testing 90° salinometer, usually made from fine mild-cure salt.  The salmon eggs are stirred occasionally with a wooden paddle to insure thorough mixing and equal absorption of brine.  The brining time varies with season, temperature, and humidity, besides size, consistency, and freshness of eggs.  The time required varies from 15 to 30 minutes.  The packers determine the sufficiency of cure by noting the change in consistency of the eggs.  The interior must coagulate to a certain jelly-like consistency but the eggs must not be shrunken.  After brining the eggs are dipped from the vat, placed on wire-meshed screens and drained overnight, or for a period of about 12 hours.

After draining, the eggs are filled in small kegs holding about 100 pounds and lined with vegetable parchment paper.  The kegs are covered and allowed to stand until the eggs settle.  The headspace caused by settling is then filled with more caviar, the kegs are headed, and put in chill storage at 34° to 36° F. until shipped.  They are shipped under refrigeration.  The caviar is repacked in glass by large wholesale dealers in the eastern part of the United States.  Nappy glass jars, holding 2 to 4 ounces are probably the most widely used containers.  To obtain the maximum preservation the containers should be held at temperatures not higher than 40° F. or less than 29° F., which may keep the caviar in good condition for a year.

Salmon Caviar Russian Method

Chum and pink salmon are used most widely. Caviar may also be made from silver-salmon roe.  Chinook salmon is not favored because of the large size of the eggs.  The roe sacs are slit and rubbed over a screen to separated the eggs from the membranes.  The eggs are then mixed in a concentrated salt brine (sp. gr. 1.200), previously boiled, and cooled to a temperature of from 13° to 18° C. (55.4° to 64.6° F.). The volume of brine should be three times that of caviar.  Salt requirements are the same as for sturgeon caviar.  The salting time varies as follows: In the Amur district, it is from 8 to 10 minutes for the best grade caviar; in the Kamchatka district, 12 to 14 minutes.  For second grade caviar the time is 10 to 12 minutes in the Amur area, and 14 to 15 minutes in Kamchatka.

When sufficiently salted the caviar is allowed to stand for 12 hours to allow the brine to drain off and to permit uniform penetration of salt.  Dry borax and urotropian are then added and distributed uniformly by mixing.  Olive or cottonseed oil is added in small amounts and mixed with the caviar to prevent the grains from sticking and to give the product a more glossy, attractive appearance.  The salmon caviar is then packed in barrels, which have been coated inside with a mixture of paraffin and wax, in equal parts.  The sides and bottoms of the barrels are covered with parchment soaked in concentrated brine, then with cotton cloth impregnated with vegetable oil.  Low-temperature storage is necessary for salmon caviar if it is to be preserved for any length of time.

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