Salmon Roe, also known as Salmon Caviar or Ikura, is the ripe internal egg masses or recently released external egg masses of Salmon. It is eaten as seafood, either cooked in as an ingredient or eaten raw as a form of caviar, which is considered a delicacy. Salmon Roe can be fairly expensive, so it’s important to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.
Salmon Roe in a sealed container can last in the refrigerator for up to a year. However, if you have opened the container it should be consumed within 3 days. Frozen caviar that has been thawed should be used within 10 days, and should not be refrozen.
Can You Freeze Salmon Roe?
Salmon roe can indeed be put in the freezer, but it’s important to note that it is likely to alter the taste and texture. If you are purchasing fresh salmon roe and plan on putting it into the freezer, you should plan to do so within a couple of days. To preserve the roe as much as you can, there is a delicate process to follow to get the best results.
Start by gently rinsing the salmon roe in a colander and allowing all excess moisture to drain. Once it’s mostly dry, salt it with odorless olive oil. There is no need to stir, simply shake the roe around a bit to get it nicely coated. The oil will help preserve the shape and feel of the eggs while they are being frozen. Once salted, place them in a glass air-tight container. It’s important to never use metal because it can cause the roe to oxidize and taste metallic, and not even worth saving. This is the same reason you never see people eating caviar with metal spoons.
Once the salmon roe has been sealed in the air-tight container, place it in the back of the freezer where it can stay for up to a year, as long as the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much. Keeping it at around 0°F should do the trick. Once you decide to defrost your salmon roe, you can not re-freeze it. Not only does it deplete the roe of all beneficial vitamins, and change the texture, it can also be dangerous.
How is Salmon Roe Collected?
There are two ways you can collect salmon roe, one way they are alive, and the other they are killed before the collecting takes place. When a salmon is going to be killed for caviar, the rest of the fish does not go to waste. Salmon is relatively expensive in and of itself, so any females killed for caviar would be sold for their meat like any other.
Luckily, in modern times, it’s a relatively painless process for the fish. They are placed into cool water and generally rendered unconscious. The fishermen then use a cesarian-type method to remove the eggs, which must be removed immediately to avoid the carcass releasing a harmful chemical that renders the eggs inedible.
There is a way to “milk” salmon roe out without killing the fish, but, as you can imagine, it is a tedious and strangely intimate process. The fish are given an ultrasound to determine if it is the appropriate time to milk them and if so, are put under anesthesia. Then, a professional comes and either use a table or simply places the fish on their lap, providing slow, gentle strokes down the belly with enough pressure to coax out the roe. Yes, it’s definitely as weird as it sounds.
Some producers say that fish roe takes on the characteristics of its’s environment. This could mean that hand-milked salmon roe tastes better than some that might be cut out of a dead fish. Or, that happy and healthy farmed salmon make tastier roe than that of a stressed-out wild-caught fish.
The competition for who can come out with the best of the best in the world of caviar continues to rage on, but it really is just a matter of personal preference. The benefit of hand-milking salmon for their roe is that the fish is kept alive, happy, and healthy until it spawns again in another couple of years.
We’ve seen the tedious work that goes into collecting fish roe, and why it’s likely to be on the expensive end of the grocery spectrum. Proper storing of salmon roe can help ensure it doesn’t go to waste, and maintain its uniquely delicate taste and feel. Whether you keep it in the refrigerator, freezer, or are able to eat it all up before worrying about it going bad.
Salmon are Diadromous, which means they do well in both fresh and saltwater. While some populations are healthier than others, they are not considered endangered and are a fairly sustainable food source all over the world. Salmon Roe is just another great way for us to utilize this resource.