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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Monday, December 20, 2004
Black Pearls
This holiday season, treat your honey (or yourself) to an ounce of caviar. It's the most expensive snack you'll ever have. Real caviar is the roe of sturgeon, although other fish eggs can be sold as caviar in the U.S. so long as the name of the fish comes first (e.g. salmon caviar).

Caviar is delicate stuff, and it does not keep well, so it must be processed carefully but quickly. You start with a pregnant sturgeon. Then you bash it on the head to stun it (killing the sturgeon would speed the deterioration of the roe). Then you remove the roe sac, strain out the individual eggs, clean the eggs with very cold water and then dry them. Then a caviar expert steps in to judge the size, smell, taste, and texture of the eggs. Most importantly, he (find me a woman that does this) determines how much salt to be added. The finest caviar is malossol, a Russian word that means "low salt."

Caviar must be kept refrigerated and it will only last a few weeks. You don't want to freeze caviar because the eggs might burst. Once the container is opened, you better finish it.

At the Bristol Farms near my home, you can get an ounce of Beluga for $105. Beluga is the largest kind of sturgeon and it produces the largest eggs - dark gray eggs with a mild buttery taste. This is considered the best caviar and it is increasingly more difficult to come by as the beluga sturgeon population (located mostly in the Caspian Sea) has been decimated over the last 20 years. My first experience with caviar was beluga served at the reception following my wife's boss' wedding.

You can get an ounce of Sevruga for $70. Sevruga is the smallest sturgeon with the smallest eggs. It has a strong taste (less subtle = less expensive) and it was served atop hors d'oeuvres at my company's Christmas party this past Friday.

The in-between caviar is Ossetra and you can get an ounce for $80. It comes from a medium-sized sturgeon and it has a stronger taste than Beluga, but less strong than Sevruga. I bought an ounce of this for my wife two Christmases ago because they were out of Beluga, and she didn't like it. This is one of my top three "Great Gift Ideas that Totally Backfired." Moral of the story: try it before you buy it, because caviar is not for everyone.

For those of you that care, a quick search of the Internet reveals that - yes - there is kosher caviar. I was initially unsure of this, given the unusual method by which caviar is processed.

Bon apetit.
Somewhere in here, there is a liberal-tinged Caviar v. Wade joke to be made, but I ain't gonna do it.
The explanation of kosher caviar:

It is permissible to eat the eggs of any species of which it is permissible to eat the animal itself. So eating eagle eggs is not OK because eating eagles isn't ok. (Can't eat birds of prey.) Chicken and ostrich eggs are fine. So it's OK to eat the eggs of any kosher fish. Fish are kosher if they have fins and scales (i.e. no sharks or skates or catfish, but more or less all other fish).

One other wrinkle has to do with the slaughter of the animals. Land animals and birds have to be kosher slaughtered which basically involves having their necks cut with a very sharp blade. There is no rule for killing fish. You can bring them into your boat with a net and step on them; you can spear them; you can shoot them with your shotgun. So killing them some weird way to get at their eggs is ok.

Trivia question for extra points. (Ralphie is disqualified.) Name the only animal product that is kosher that is made by an animal that is not kosher. (It's not an egg. It's something else that a specific animal makes. Eating the animal isn't ok, but the product is.)
I'll take a swing. Honey?
Bingo! You win. Not allowed to eat bees.
Kosher? Yes. Distgusting? Also yes. I guess I just have pedestrian tastes (I prefer cheese doodles).
Also, Ralphie.........huh?
mmmmmmm.... cheese doodles. now I'm hungry.
Common home, we're having spaghetti with meat sauce! For those of you who don't know, don't try to serve the good doctor a meal that does'nt contain the flesh of a dead animal, preferably a cow.
I'm getting called home for dinner by my wife via blog! I love the future. I can still remember when the carrier pigeons would bring me wax tablets with ball-and-chain's love notes back when we were dating...
A. Ostrich & its eggs ain't kosher.
B. Another answer to Bean's question: breast milk
C. B&C - I don't know, something about "roe" and saving eggs and stunning the mother... okay, it was a stretch.
I didn't think sturgeon had scales.

I do know that they live a very long time. The oldest on record was 152 years old. Is there an age limit on kosher? I mean, can you eat a really really old cow? Or is that just a taste thing?
I don't think surgeons have scales either. I mean, how could they operate?
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