It is here in Gironde that the majority of the French caviar. I don’t know if you are aware of it but there is no more wild caviar in the world today (fishing quotas have been at zero for several years to preserve the species). The caviar is therefore derived frombreedingWe have a lot of fish farms and we have many in the Bordeaux area.
The company Sturia is the French leader and the only one to have a hatchery. It can thus follow the whole chain from the reproduction of the sturgeons to the selection of caviar. It produces an exceptional caviar that can be found on many tables of starred restaurants. I had the chance to visit some of their production sites last week and it was quite exciting.
How is the sturgeon breeding going:
You should already know that there are several varieties of sturgeon. Here at Sturia, 2 species are bred : The Acipenser baeri mainly but also the Gueldenstaedtii (the Osciètre). The bugs are quite different to the eye, judge for yourself:
Don’t think that we are here in intensive breeding, it’s even the opposite. The sturgeons live in ponds, (few fish per pond) whose water quality is constantly measured. The reason is simple: the better the environment and the living conditions of the fish, the more it grows and the more it (well, I should rather say it) produces eggs.
This is what a fish farm looks like.
It will take an average of 7 years of rearing for a female sturgeon to produce eggs. This largely explains the final cost of the product. For a chicken for example, it is often 80 or 90 days, this gives you a point of comparison. In addition, fish can only be sexed (differentiated male-female) from the age of 2 years and after ultrasound.
In a nutshell.
A few weeks before slaughter, the sturgeons are transferred to highly oxygenated tanks to lose any muddy taste they may have.
Caviar production takes place between September and February. The fish is sacrificed, bled and then the eggs are collected.
They are then distributed according to their color and size in order to have homogeneous batches. It is an essential and decisive step at Sturia, which wants to offer its customers a quality that is always equal to the rest.. If you buy a box today and a box next year you have to find the same thing inside.
However, as always, there are differences in nature that we do not control. One thus obtains firmer eggs, others larger, some clearer, others wetter etc… It is thus here, at this moment, that the selection is made. It is the only company to my knowledge which pushes so far the sorting of the eggs.
After sorting comes sieving. The aim is to remove membranes and fat. Everything is also done there by hand so that the eggs do not crush. The caviar is then washed, drained, weighed (to calculate the amount of salt to put inside) and salted.
You can see these steps here in video :
After canning, the caviar will be matured (i.e. it will be aged in a cold room).
Depending on the variety of fish, size, firmness, color and tasteSturia caviar will be sold under different trade names:
- For large eggs (more than 3 mm), it will be the Prestige range.
- For the softest eggs, it will be the entry level.
- For the heart of the range, which is less than a month old, it will be Sturia Primeur caviar (it is firm, with a small taste of hazelnuts).
- Then comes the notion of maturing with Vintage caviar which is between 3 and 8 months old. It represents 60 to 70% of the production.
- As for the caviars matured more than 8 months, it is the Origin caviar.
- Also note the existence of a caviar Excellence grand chef (2% of the production) which is the top of the top: Super color and very nice firmness.
As you can see, from the freshness of a freshly caught caviar to the power of a mature caviar, Sturia offers a complete collection of tailor-made caviars, hence its name. Haute Couture Caviar.
Thank you to the whole Sturia team for this exciting visit.
To go further :
To follow: tastings, taste, recipe ideas etc. 🙂