I have been thinking about posting a salmon caviar recipe for a while now, and being the salmon lover that I am, I was very excited, when last week on a dip-netting adventure with my family to the Kenai River, Alaska, we ended up with a lot of fish and roe.
This year I am using a cold water method to brine the roe, but I am going to share the warm water brining method I used last year as well, which is much easier when it comes to removing the eggs from the membrane than if using cold water. I personally prefer the cold water method because the caviar is much more fresh in flavor and appearance. I think brining it in warm water makes it slightly fishy.
2 skeins of fresh salmon roe
4 cups cold water
1 cup small grain sea salt
Wash the skeins under cold water, carefully removing blood and any other impurities.
If using warm water method, fill a large pot with the water, stir in the salt, bring to 115 F, and remove the pot from the heat.
For cold water method, in a large bowl, mix the water with the salt until the salt is dissolved.
Drop the skeins into the pot or bowl. With warm water, in a few seconds, you will notice that the roe easily starts to come off the membranes. You can use your fingers to remove the eggs from the membranes, or to speed up the process use a grater or galvanized ¼ inch hole screen.
For both methods, place the skein with the membrane side up on the non-sharp side of the grater or top of the screen, and gently work it through the grater over the pot with the brine. If pieces of the membrane get stuck in the grater remove them before continuing. Stop pushing the eggs through the grater once you reach the back membrane.
With warm water brining, the brine and roe will become cloudy; this is normal. The roe will get bright once jarred.
Let the roe brine for 10 to 15 minutes. You can remove burst egg shells using fine mesh sieve. After brining for 10 minutes (brining time starts when you place the skeins into the brine), rinse some roe under cold water and taste it. If it is salty enough for your taste, drain and rinse the rest of the roe under cold water to wash off extra salt and debris. Taste it to make sure it is not over-salted, if it is, rinse it some more. If you still find it salty after rinsing, soak it in cold water for 5 minutes, then drain it. Keep in mind that less salt equals shorter storage life.
Transfer the roe into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Place the colander into a bowl, and let it drain for 10 to 15 minutes, occasionally lifting the cheesecloth by the ends to speed up draining. Alternatively you can spread the roe on a clean kitchen towel.
Transfer the caviar into glass jars, and store it in a refrigerator for up to a month or a freezer for up to 6 months. When the roe starts to taste fishy, it means it is getting old; you still can eat it though, if you don’t mind the taste.
Serve it on slices of bread, blinis, or crackers with cream cheese, creme fresh or butter. Before serving, you can mix the caviar with small amount of olive oil to give it shiny appearance.