1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Caviare

CAVIARE, or Caviar, the roe of various species of Acipenser or sturgeon (q.v.), prepared, in several qualities, as an article of food. The word is common to most European languages and supposed to be of Turk or Tatar origin, but the Turk word khavyah is probably derived from the Ital. caviale; the word does not appear in Russian. The best caviare, which can only be made in winter and is difficult to preserve, is the loosely granulated, almost liquid, kind, known in Russia as ikra. It is prepared by beating the ovaries and straining through a sieve to clear the eggs of the membranes, fibres and fatty matter; it is then salted with from 4-6% of salt. The difficulty of preparation and of transport has made it a table delicacy in western Europe, where it has been known since the 16th century, as is evidenced by Hamlet’s “His play . . . pleased not the million, ’twas caviare to the general.” It is eaten either as an hors d’œuvre, particularly in Russia and northern Europe with kümmel or other liqueurs, or as a savoury, or as a flavouring to other dishes. The coarser quality, in Russia known as pájusnaya (from pajus, the adherent skin of the ovaries), is more strongly salted in brine and is pressed into a more solid form than the ikra; it is then packed in small barrels or hermetically-sealed tins. This forms a staple article of food in Russia and eastern Europe. Though the best forms of caviare are still made in Russia, and the greater quantity of the coarser kinds are exported from Astrakhan, the centre of the trade, larger amounts are made each year for export in America and also in Germany, Norway and Sweden. The roe of tunny and mullet, pickled in brine and vinegar, is used, under the name of “Botargo,” along the Mediterranean littoral and in the Levant.