Why foodies are falling in love with French caviar
A guide to this luxury delicacy
Think caviar, and you’re likely to think of Russia, and Beluga caviar which is the epitome of luxury, and can sell for around £7,500 a kilogram
But, with fish stocks declining, prices are rising and people are looking for alternatives. Step up French caviar.
Farming caviar is only a recent thing in France, although sturgeon have been resident in the Dordogne and Garonne rivers for many years.
And although the taste might not replicate that of the sturgeon found in the Caspian and Black seas, the French caviar industry is flourishing, and is beginning to compete with the famous Beluga variety.
Today, about one sixth of the world’s caviar is French, and they are beginning to make themselves known as a true producer of this luxury delicacy.
The history of French caviar is quite interesting.
The sturgeon was always thought of being a noble fish in France, indeed, fishermen used to present a fish to the local bishop to be blessed, so that the catches would be plentiful. However, although the flesh was treasured, the roe was actually fed to geese!
Folklore has it that a Russian princess was visiting the Gironde area, and was shocked when she saw fishermen throwing away the roe. So she showed them how to prepare it, and told them how valuable it really was.
And it was because of that, that the popularity of French caviar really took off in the 1920s. The native species of sturgeon in the Dordogne and Gironde was called the Sturio, and processing centres were set up, and full-scale production began. However, stocks became dangerously low, and a fishing ban was imposed.
Then it only came back onto the menu when after an agreement with Russia, a Siberian sturgeon was introduced, the Baerii, and this is the species which is still farmed today. It takes around 10 years to raise a female sturgeon to begin farming her eggs, so it’s not an easy or quick process, which is why it costs so much to buy.
Now there are around 20 companies which farm sturgeon roe in France, mostly in the South West, although there is an area in central France called the Sologne which produces caviar and it’s rapidly growing in popularity with chefs and restauranteurs.
The French have also developed a new technique for tasting caviar called à la royale, which involves putting the caviar onto the back of the hand to warm it first, before eating it.
Typically, the Baerii eggs are smaller than Beluga caviar, and range in colour from golden brown to gray and black, and the taste is quite nutty, but also with fruity tones.
As you can imagine, Paris is the biggest consumer of caviar in France, and traditionally, it is enjoyed chilled. French suppliers have also branched out and produced delicacies such as caviar pate, ready-made cubes, perfect for the party hostess, and caviar cream, a dip made with ¼ caviar.
Of course, the Russians drink caviar with vodka, but when in France, of course, you should have it with champagne for the ultimate luxury experience!
When eating caviar, ensure that you have a mother-of-pearl or plastic spoon, as metal interacts with the flavor and spoils it somewhat.
It’s best eaten with scallops, or just on its own with a bit of crusty bread.
French brands to look out for include: Diva Caviar, Caviar Sturia Grand Chef, Caviar Sturia Vintage and Ebene Caviar.
If you want to see for yourself where French caviar orginates, then the Dordogne or Aquitaine regions are best (look out for our 'New for 2017' holidays). Check out our tours of the region, and if you want to incorporate some caviar tasting, let us know, and we can arrange an experience for you!
And don’t forget to tell us what you think! Is it as good as Beluga caviar?
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