Monday, March 13, 2006

Yellow Perch "Caviar": Just for Fun

Some recent web surfing inspired me to try making "caviar" with yellow perch roe. The size and texture of the eggs seemed to be just right. And what really is the production of caviar all about beyond the salting of fish roe? Depending upon whom you ask, the process ranges from simple, to art form, to well kept secret. The only option revealed to me, however, was the simple one. Two sources offered quite similar techniques. One was Jacqueline E. Knight’s The Cooks’ Fish Guide, E.F. Dutton & Co. New York, 1973. The other was on the web. A less specific source on the Internet didn’t mention salt, using instead lemon juice, onions and salad oil. Perhaps it could prove quite delicious, and maybe someday I’ll try it. Respecting her choice to use quotes when using the word caviar, I opted for the preparation outlined in Ms. Knight’s book. I didn't love the result, but found it no less palatable than the lumpfish roe sold at the mainstream chain supermarkets.


To make your own “caviar,” remove the roe in its unbroken membrane (the whole piece is called a skein) immediately upon killing the fish. Do not wash it, as that softens the eggs, but keep it cold until you can treat it. Do this as quickly as possible. With your fingers, gently pop the eggs individually out of the skein into a measuring cup. For each 1 to 2 cups of eggs, stir ½ cup of fine pure salt into 2 cups of cold water. (The amount of salt depends on your own preferences.) Pour in the eggs and swirl briefly and gently. Let stand for about 30 minutes to firm up and absorb some of the salt. Pick out any remaining membrane (which has turned white.) Drain through a strainer and immerse the strainer, with the eggs, in a large bowl of cold water, swirling gently to rinse. Drain. Pick out any remaining membrane. Store in cooked thoroughly cleaned containers with tight lids. Caviar can be eaten within a few hours, but is best aged for at least a month.

from The Cook's Fish Guide, by Jacqueline E. Knight: E.F. Dutton & Co., New York 1973