Wild Salmon Caviar — a family recipe

Salmon Caviar | A Photo Tutorial

It’s salmon season and for most that means filets, steaks and smoked salmon. We love all that in our family, but as soon as we hear of a friend going salmon fishing we think “roe!” We request that all our fishing friends keep the salmon eggs when they clean their fish and store them diligently on ice until they reach our clutches.

I grew up knowing all about brined salmon caviar: they were stinky, fishy, gooey and gross. But then I grew up and so did my palate. Now they are glimmering orange jewels that pop and melt in your mouth in salty bliss.

My father is the king of salmon roe preparation, so I have decided to reblog his Caviar Mania post from his site sausagemania.com (it’s for real, people). Visit his site for full photo tutorials on preparing sausage, lox, kippered salmon, and pesto.

Fresh King Salmon Caviar

How to Make Delicious Salmon Caviar at Home. Easy Recipes From SausageMania.com!

The designation “caviar” is traditionally applied to the salted, unfertilized roe of wild Caspian Sea sturgeon, a rapidly diminishing resource as neither Russia nor Iran are able (or willing) to end poaching. While Russian and Iranian caviar is an expensive luxury, going for as much as $500 an ounce, lesser caviars, made from the salted roe of salmon, lump fish, whitefish, steelhead, trout and other species of sturgeon, are more affordable substitutes.

CaviarMania is here to teach you how to make Salmon Caviar, specifically, caviar from Wild Alaskan Salmon.

Salmon Caviar is ridiculously simple to make. The most difficult part is getting hold of fresh salmon eggs. Fortunately, here in Alaska, salmon eggs are often discarded, or rolled in Borax, frozen, and used as bait – to catch more salmon, of course. So during the salmon runs in June through August, fresh eggs can be had in abundance if you have the right connections.

If you do not, then you need salmon – fresh, whole, uncleaned, iced salmon, and then you hope most of them are hens, that is, full of eggs. You can do without the fish, if you can tap into a good supply of fresh eggs, which, in Alaska, the home of SausageMania, LoxMania, KipperMania and now, CaviarMania, can often be done if you have fishing friends who are wiling to save the roe for you. A word of caution, however: you must know and trust your roe purveyor to care for the roe. If the fish have been left in the sun for a few hours before being cleaned, or the roe is not immediately iced, you may find youself spending time, energy and salt to produce an inferior product!

Exposing the RoeTwo beautiful skeins of roe!


Removing Roe From a Female King Salmon
The roe is removed from the salmon.

A Bowl of King Salmon Roe

The only tools needed are a few bowls and a screen of 1/4″ or 5/16″ galvanized mesh to fit over one of the bowls, a large strainer and a 1-gallon ZipLoc bag. The only ingredients are the salmon eggs, salt and cold water. The most time-consuming part is pushing the eggs through the mesh. The brining time necessary to prepare the caviar varies from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs and your tolerance for saltiness.

A few words of caution about salmon roe: handle the skeins with care. Keep them cold at all times. Never, never, never freeze salmon roe unless you’re planning to make fish bait. The same goes for the finished product: freezing wrecks the eggs, and is especially harsh on the sensual “pop-ness” of the individual eggs as you eat them. Fresh caviar has a unique texture: you can feel each separate egg on the tongue, and each egg pops with a flavorful explosion. Frozen caviar is “dead.” It’s slushy, slimy and inert.

OK, so now you have several skeins of fresh, cold salmon eggs from a reputable source. From which species of salmon? Eggs from sockeye (red) and pink (humpy) salmon are small, and require less brining time. Eggs from Coho (silver) salmon are larger and require more brining. Eggs from king (Chinook) salmon, and from chum (dog or keta) salmon are the largest, and need the longest time. (Keta eggs are prized by Russians, who feel they make the best salmon caviar.)

Whatever kind of roe you have, you will need a galvanized screen to separate the eggs from their membranous attachment. A galvanized mesh screen with 1/4 – 5/16” holes is the best; cut it to fit tightly over a large bowl. Then get hold of some non-iodized salt. Coarse is better than fine.

Spread each skein, membrane side up, on the screen and work the eggs through the screen and through the mesh with your fingers. Membranes will get caught in the screen, so every now and again, remove the stuck membranes and discard. From time to time, remove the screen, and gently scrape off the eggs hanging from the bottom with a rubber or plastic spatula.

Salt and Mesh For Making Caviar
ust one ingredient: non-iodized salt. Just one tool: a piece of galvanized mesh.
Pushing Salmon Eggs Through Mesh
A skein being positioned on the mesh. The skein will be rotated to put the egg membrane on top.
Pushing Salmon Eggs Through the Mesh
Push the eggs through the mesh.

Next, fill a large bowl with the coldest water you can get and dissolve enough salt in it until you have a saturated saline solution, meaning that there will be undissolved excess salt in the bottom. Pour the separated eggs into the cold brine and gently stir. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, take a spoonful of eggs and place in a small strainer, then rinse them in running cold water to rinse off the exterior salt. Taste them. If not salty enough, wait another five minutes and taste again. When the eggs are salty enough for your taste, pour them into a large strainer and rinse them with running cold water, gently turning them over and over with your hands to wash off all the outside salt.

Soaking Salmon Eggs in Saline
Now put the eggs in a cold saturated saline solution for 10-30 minutes, depending on size of eggs and your taste for saltiness.
Rinsing Salmon Eggs
Once you’ve sampled the eggs, and gotten them to your level of saltiness, rinse in cold running water to remove surface salt.

At this stage, the eggs still have active osmotic cell walls, so, if you over-salted them, just soak them in cold water for several minutes, and the salt will travel back out of the eggs and into the water. Once you are completely satisfied with the saltiness of the product, place the egg-laden strainer in a large bowl and fill a gallon ZipLoc bag with cold water. Place the bag on top of the eggs and put the bowl with strainer, eggs and ZipLoc in the refrigerator overnight. The weight of the ZipLoc bag packs and compresses the eggs, which helps make them spreadable onto crackers or whatever you wish to spread them on. Now you have caviar! It will last 7-10 days in the fridge, after which it won’t spoil, but will acquire an unpleasant fishy taste. If you have a vacuum packer, you can vacuum-pack the jars, which will allow the product to remain decent from 2-3 weeks, if refrigerated, before becoming “fishy.”

Weighting Down Salmon Eggs
Weight down the eggs with a ZipLoc bag.


Salmon Eggs in Fridge
Store the weighted eggs overnight in the fridge.
Finished Caviar in Sink
The next day, the caviar is compacted.

Filling Jars with Salmon Caviar

A Pyramid of Caviar!

Punching a Hole in a Jar of Caviar

Unless you have a vacuum packer that will evacuate Mason jars, you’ll need to punch a hole in the tops of the jars to let the air out, and vacuum-pack them in bags. They will then keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Jar of Caviar in Vacuum Packe
Placing a jar of caviar in the packer.
Salmon Caviar in Refrigerator
The final product safe in the refrigerator.

Now that you’ve finished, what are you going to do with all that caviar? Well, it’ll go faster than you think. You can spread it on crackers, make Blini or Caviar Omelets (but don’t make them “hard” or you’ll ruin the caviar). If you make Blini, serve with iced vodka.

Blini made with Salmon Caviar
Preparing a plate of Salmon Caviar Blini. Blini are Russian pancakes, really the same thing as crepes.
Iced Stolichnaya Vodka
For the quantity of Caviar we just made, we’ll need a lot of Vodka!
Blini Made with Salmon Cavair - Ready to Eat!
Serve the Blini with a dollop of sour cream and some iced vodka. You’ll be surprised how quickly a quart of caviar goes!











Not yet brave enough for salmon eggs? Try my recipe for grilled cedar-plank salmon.



14 thoughts on “Wild Salmon Caviar — a family recipe”

  1. Caviar (any kind) is one of the things I’ve never been able to get into my mouth. The other is frog legs. Sorry! I’m glad you love them but I just can’t eat them no matter how many people tell me they’re delicious. But this is a great tutorial, it was interesting if not particularly useful to me.

    1. Penny,
      I didn’t start liking this delicacy until about four years ago, so I completely understand where you’re coming from. But I’ll agree with you on frog legs — tried them a couple of times and I don’t feel as though I need to eat them again.

  2. Reblogged this on Athabascan Woman Blog and commented:
    The salmon are in! Alaskans are going fishing for salmon and putting it away for the winter. Many of my friends and relatives are smoking and canning their salmon. I will be putting mine away in the freezer. We rely and enjoy the salmon over the winter.

    Here is a recipe on making wild salmon caviar from Alaska Knight Nat. Thank you to Natasha for allowing me to share her recipe with Athabascan Woman Blog readers!

  3. How do you jar it to last several months???? I lived in Russia for a while and even the “tins” of salmon caviar were quite good, nothing on par with fresh, but good.

  4. Love your foraging/ harvesting Alaskan recipes! We were cleaning some sockeye tonight and one was a ‘hen’ and I remembered your post about salmon caviar!
    Not sure where can I pick up some galvanized metal though..?

    1. Valerie,
      Do you have a tennis racket? That’s a good substitute. Otherwise you can find that grate stuff at hardware stores.
      Thanks for you comment and good luck!

  5. Great info, thanks for sharing. A while ago red a comment of a Scandinavian lady, watching video where couple is discarding salmon raw. Just salt it and freeze it. Maybe there will not be a crunch but , will see. Did salt some raw, cannot recall what fish but will see how will it taste

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