Anna Dutch

Packing Caviar at Browne Trading Co.

Anna Dutch

The Caviar Packing Room at Browne Trading is truly where the magic happens. This is where every type of caviar Browne Trading offers is selected and graded to ensure you only ever receive the finest quality product possible.

Our caviar is handled directly & packed by hand by our Caviar Director, Richard Hall, under the close supervision of our Founder, Owner, & President, Rod Browne Mitchell. With over 70 years in the industry between them, both Richard & Rod are leading world experts on all things caviar.

With this blog, we are going to give you a “behind the scenes” look at how we pack your caviar at Browne Trading. Everything from how our caviar is received, to how it leaves, will be included, so you know exactly how much care goes into our tins & jars. The caviar we are going to focus on in this article is the Caviar Galilee “Royal Grade” from Israel.

As the market for wild Caspian caviar became more and more restrictive due to the endangerment of overfishing of caviar-producing sturgeon, Browne was among the first in the U.S. who turned to resourcing farm-raised caviar from around the World. Browne now sources the best farm-raised caviar produced today, harvested as close as Florida and as far away as Israel. Our renowned caviars can be found in the nation’s elite restaurants and through such distributors of distinction as Williams Sonoma, Dean & Deluca, and Balducci’s.

Receiving Caviar

Most caviar producers package their caviar in a 1.8 kilo tin – held shut by a large band. We call these the “Original Tin” (or in our slang, the “OT”). We purchase these directly from caviar harvesters from the U.S. and around the world. By directly purchasing from the harvesters, we are guaranteed superior product freshness along with complete control of what we receive.  When opening these tins, Richard is having the first look at an “unadulterated” shipment first exposed to air since it was packed at harvest. This is his first opportunity to evaluate its quality.

Browne Trading Caviar Original Tin

Browne Trading Caviar Original Tin 2

Grading Caviar 

Each original tin holds the eggs of an individual sturgeon. Caviar should never be “blended” or mixed with different fish. With the advent of aquaculture, a harvesting group of caviar-bearing sturgeon is almost always of the same age, size, & stock. They are also raised in the same conditions (water quality, temperature, etc.) and on the same diet. Biology, of course, can still play a part and make a unique “batch” per individual fish. Part of the initial grading process is to evaluate the quality and consistency of the original delivery. Rich will factor into account the size of the caviar grains (medium to large size) along with the color of the eggs, from light to dark.

Browne Trading Caviar Grading

Checking Quality

Richard has over 29 years in the caviar business, and over the course of his career has developed a master caviar palate. Part of his job is to taste test the caviar (an enviable part of his job). By sampling the product, Rich is evaluating multiple factors –  foremost the richness of flavor. Caviar – especially that of the Osetra sturgeon – should have a fresh, almost nutty flavor – and should be briny without being powerfully salty (“malossol” – Russian for “little salt” – is a common term used and is often on the caviar label itself.) The pleasing flavor needs to be equally offset by a firmness of egg texture – or the “pop” on the roof of the mouth – that is a traditional benchmark of superior caviar. Finally, the finish is evaluated on the palate – it should be creamy and flavorful, not bitter or “fishy.” All these factors play into Richard’s assessment of the quality grade assigned to the caviar. In this particular case, the Caviar Galilee Osetra is graded as “Royal”: superior size, flavor, and color:

Browne Trading Caviar Tasting Spoon

Preparing the Browne Trading Tins for Packing

You should be able to trace the container of caviar you have by a “lot number” which refers back to the supplier’s legal documentation. This is also required by the FDA in case of any food related contamination or recall. If you do not have a lot number, you should not be serving the caviar. Every importer is required by Federal law to have a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Permit to guarantee the sturgeon species, a “Certificate of Origin” that guarantees where the caviar was harvested, and a “Labeling Report” that shows the harvest date. As a discerning customer, you should feel free to ask for these documents. Beware if a supplier or dealer cannot produce these documents or finds an excuse not to give you this information.

All caviar must also have a “Best Consumed By” date as would any perishable fresh fish or packaged food. This is placed on the container along with the lot number. After all, why would you purchase premium “fresh caviar” without evidence of when/where it was harvested, packaged, or subject to expiration?

Here, Richard applies these labels to the tins in preparation of caviar packing.

Browne Trading Caviar Packing Applying Labels

Weighing & Packing Your Caviar

Once the caviar jars – or in this case, our custom-produced caviar tins – are ready, Richard will prepare the scales to pack the graded caviar directly from the OT into our packaging. He will “zero out” the weight of the tin so that the caviar inside will bear the net weight appropriate to the container. All imported caviar is weighed and sold in grams (as in this case) while domestically-produced caviar is sold in ounces. This is an easy distinction to keep in mind when ordering caviar from Browne Trading Co. (you can view a simple conversion chart here)

Browne Trading Caviar Packing ScaleBrowne Trading Caviar Packing Scale with Tin

Using a caviar spatula, Rich delicately hand packs each tin, so as not to rupture the delicate “eggs”.

Browne Trading Caviar Galilee Packing

Browne Trading Caviar Galilee Packing 2

The Finishing Touches 

Once the caviar is packed to the exact weight, the Browne Trading labeled lid is affixed.

Browne Trading Caviar Packing Lid

Air is caviar’s number one enemy. Below, Richard takes the newly packaged tin and puts it into our vacuum sealer. It applies negative 13 pounds per square inch, sealing the tin and removing all extraneous air. Properly refrigerated and left unopened to keep the integrity of the vacuum intact, it will now remain optimum for well over 4-6 weeks – once opened, however, only up to 3 days. Again, you should always refer to the expiration date for best consumed by time on the bottom of the tin.

Browne Trading Caviar Packing Vacuum Sealing

Final Product, Ready to be Shipped Your Way

Now sealed, the caviar bears our custom label, which is printed on water-resistant foil. It is important to note that all our Browne Trading caviar labels always show the net weight of the caviar, the ingredients and species of fish, and the country of origin the caviar was produced in. Beware when purchasing caviar from other sources that do not readily print this information: you may not be holding what you think you purchased if dealing with a less than scrupulous caviar purveyor.

Browne Trading Caviar Galilee Royal Osetra

At Browne Trading, we take great pride in our caviar quality, custom packaging, labeling, compliance, and traceability of every caviar line we carry. This expertise makes our products among the best available anywhere in the world. If you are looking to experience these caviars, they are available for Retail Sale on our online store or for Wholesale Purchase via inquiry.

Browne’s Caviar & Roe Selection

 Imported:

Domestic Caviar & Roe:

Feel free to leave us a comment or a review on our Facebook Page or tag us @browntradingco in a picture of you preparing/presenting/eating our Caviar on Instagram.