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What is Hackleback Caviar?

Harvested from either hackleback or paddlefish sturgeon, hackleback caviar is black in color.
Abalone shells with mother of pearl, which is often used to make caviar spoons.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 March 2014
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Hackleback caviar is often called the American equivalent to Russian sevruga caviar, though it is less expensive. It is harvested from either hackleback or paddlefish sturgeon. Like all caviar, hackleback caviar refers to fish roe or fish eggs, which can come in a variety of color and flavors depending upon the fish from which they are derived. Hackleback caviar is black caviar, but actually may be found in a dark gray color too.

If you’re used to small types of roe, hackleback caviar can make quite an interesting change, since the eggs are much larger. Connoisseurs of caviar especially find the deep and nutlike taste of this roe appealing. It’s often sold in place of sevruga sturgeon caviar caught in the Caspian Sea because the flavor is remarkably similar.

Even though the price of hackleback caviar is lower, this is not exactly an inexpensive food. A single ounce (28.35 g) will cost at least $15 US Dollars (USD). An ounce is the traditional serving size, since caviar has a very strong and salty taste, so you can see it can be quite expensive to serve it to a large group of people. It doesn’t come close to approaching the price to Beluga caviar, often considered the highest quality caviar. Beluga costs about ten times the amount of hackleback. Thus comparatively, this American caviar is relatively cheap.

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You can find hackleback caviar on the Internet and in gourmet food stores, where it is frequently sold in tins. One of the reasons, besides price, for the rise in popularity of hackleback, which may sometimes be sold as “Russian Style Caviar,” is that overfishing of the Caspian Sea has led to a major Russian caviar shortage. Many are very pleased with the taste similarity between hackleback and servruga, and are glad a less expensive alternative can be substituted for the increasingly difficult to find true Russian versions.

When serving this caviar, if you are not using it to garnish food, you will almost always use a tiny caviar spoon made of mother of pearl, or if you can’t get that use a wooden or even a plastic spoon. You should not ever serve any type of caviar with a metal spoon, since the caviar acids easily degrade metal. The roe will absorb the flavor of the spoon and have a bitter metallic taste. Hackleback caviar should be served on ice, and quite cold. It should not, however, be served frozen. Most people like to arrange a small ramekin of caviar over a bed of ice, which keeps it perfectly chilled.

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