Decembar 2021

DINE&WINE 92 | Kavijar » Caviar Although caviar is today somethingweassociatewitheleganceand luxury, you can discover the unusual story of how a food item for the poorest people gained the epithet of a top delicacy at the unique exhibition being held in its honour at the BelgradeMuseumof Natural History, authoredbyDubravkaVučić, senior curator ichthyologist. “The idea for the exhibition emerged from a desire to preserve fromoblivionthefactthat,duringthe second half of the 20th century, Serbiawasextremelywellknownaround the world for the production of Caviar of Kladovo. However, that caviar was by nomeans ordinary, but rather of top quality, ranking alongside the world’s most esteemed caviars, T HE GLOR I OUS H I STORY OF CAV I AR From food for paupers, to a luxurious delicacy Serbian caviar, which was eaten by the fishermen of the Danube for centuries, gained wide repute with the arrival of Russian emigrants, and even reached as far as the Titanic and Dynasty Russian and Iranian,” says the exhibition’s author. Black Sea beluga andother sturgeons traversedmore than850 kilometres to their spawninggrounds in theĐerdap, IronGates,area,andtheir eggs would have entered the fourth or fifthstageofmaturityby the time they reached Kladovo. The turning point intheworldwidepromotionof this caviar came with the influence of Russian emigrants, leading to our Serbiancaviar reachingAmerica and even the galleyof theTitanic. Kladovocaviarevengotamentioninanepisode of the TV series Dynasty. The scene sees Alexis, the regular villainess, send her lover to the store for caviar, reminding him as he departs that it must be “Caviar of Kladovo”. Caviar has actually been consumed inSerbia for very a long time, at least 2000 years, since the time of theRomanEmpire,whichishowlong peoplehavefishedfor speciesof sturgeon along the Danube. “Green beluga caviar, or unprocessed roe, was consumed by fishermenontheDanube for centuries. Initially the roe, like everywhere else in theworld,wasfoodforthemajorityof the population, because itwas easily accessible and has a highnutritional value.However, oncetheybeganprocessing it, they gained a top-quality product that quickly found its place on the dining tables of the aristocracy, and then also as a luxurious delicacy at royal courts across Europe,” says Dubravka. Serbian caviar was one of the most highly rated because it was made frombeluga roe that had a flavour–according to topconnoisseurs – thatwas creamy,witha slightlybitteraftertaste,whiletheeggswerenot crunchy, but rather fall apart under the pressure of the palate, creating the gastronomic pleasure for gourmets of this delicacy. Today, however, thebeluga sturgeon, which is more than 200 million years old, is an endangered species, alongwithother sturgeons, due toexcessivefishing and theblocking ofmigratory routes throughtheconstructionofhydroelectricdams.That’s whyfishingthemisprohibited, sothe caviar produced from these fish todaycomesexclusively fromsturgeon raised in fish farm pools. Processing the roe is seemingly straightforwardandperformed in three steps. “The roe is extracted, filtered through a sieve, then the membrane from the ovaries is removed and salt or preservatives are added... Still, the whole process is extremely demanding andmust be performed very quickly. Only 10-15 minutes is allowedtoelapse fromextracting the roe to adding the salt before the caviar is packed and closed, because the roe isextremelyperishable,” explains Dubravka. She adds that the technique for pressing the eggs through a sieve by hand is alsodemanding. If toomuch pressure is applied, the eggs will be crushed and the quality of the caviar will be at its lowest. Thus, the pressure appliedmust be just enough for the procedure to be executed properlywithout the eggs being crushed. Caviarcontainingcrushedeggs issold in the formof a pâté and is themost easily available, and is also extremely tasty. Caviar is usually served on ice, because it tastesbetterwhenchilled. It is not eaten using a metal spoon, whichoxidizesuponcontactwiththe eggs and changes the taste. Experts claimthat it isbesteatenusingwooden spoons. It has a high nutritional value, beneficial effectsonthe entire body, prevents high blood pressure and osteoporosis, and is ideal food when recovering fromillness. Often used incosmeticproducts, aphrodisiac properties have also been attributed to this delicacy. Tekst /Words: Bojana Đurić Fotografije/Photography: Prirodnjački muzej FOTO: Depositphotos / Andrii Koval