Snail caviar is a delicacy not known to many people. Most common conclusion that comes to one’s mind when hearing the word caviar is fish caviar. There are many types of fish caviar and usually caviar is considered to be a luxurious product. Snail caviar is no less luxurious, priced at €2,000 per kilogram / £1,500 per kilogram.
Snail caviar comes from the species Helix aspersa maxima or Gros gris. As you can read in more details here, each snail lays around 100 eggs and this naturally happens only once per year if the snail is kept in an outdoor setting. This is equivalent to 4 g of snail caviar.
For the 100g tub of snail caviar a farmer would need at least 25 snails.
It is therefore important for a successful snail farm to create an optimum indoor environment with controlled temperature, light and humidity, in order to create several mating and egg laying cycles per year. The temperature is usually maintained at 15 °C and humidity levels at 80%.
Snail eggs in their natural state are without colour. Once they are processed, the snail caviar may become pinkish, white or of cream colour. Size of snail eggs is 3–4 mm in diameter, but could be up to 6 mm in diameter.
Snails are hermaphrodites and therefore each snail can produce eggs. They bury their eggs in soil 1 to 1½ inches deep. One method of harvesting eggs is placing snails in boxes that have soil and sand in them.
Comparing to other caviar – one snail only produces around 4 grams of eggs annually, whereas one sturgeon can lay 18 kilograms (40 pounds) of eggs – which makes snail caviar very highly valuable on the market.
The Snail Caviar or Snail Eggs are called Caviar d’escargot (and even White Caviar) in France. They brand it under a commercial name “Perles de France” meaning pearly of France.
There are two ways to make snail caviar:
Once the eggs are sorted, selected and harvested, they pasteurize them to preserve the eggs. Eggs are prepared in Fleur de Sel (brine) and then pasteurized into real caviar boxes. This is done in a laboratory.
Pasteurized snail caviar has a shelf life of up to 6 months from the harvest date, but must be kept refrigerated. Shelf-life after opening the caviar is 14 days.
Ingredients: snail eggs, fleur de sel (salt) and water
This method was used in the 1980s in France, and did not have much success, because the membrane of the eggs was thick and hard to burst, which made the experience of eating snail caviar less pleasant. The pasteurisation process also damages the unique taste of snail caviar.
- De Jaeger snail caviar
Invented in 2004 by Dominique Pierru, this method of preserving snail caviar is unique. After years of work Dominique developed a special way of preserving snail caviar, which allows the caviar to burst perfectly between your palate and your tongue. The recipe is as natural as possible and avoids pasteurization. He uses brine with Guerande fine sea salt, rosemary essence, starch and citric acid. This process softens the egg without altering its flavour and texture.
De Jaeger snail caviar shelf life is 3 months, and must be kept refrigerated.
The membrane of the eggs pops when bitten into and shots of liquid inside taste very subtle, with slightest sweet, savoury, herbal and woody notes. Some say that snail caviar is like a walk in the forest after the rain. Its typical flavour resembles one of mushrooms, wood, oak leaf and baked asparagus. Snail caviar is crunchier than fish caviar and has an earthy flavour.
Snail caviar can be served in many ways. The most common is with blinis, sour cream and champagne. It may also be served in soups and deserts, salads or as an ingredient of the main dish. One interesting recipe is snail caviar with tuna, avocado, vanilla, chili and lime. There really is no limits to how you want to use snail caviar on your plate.
Before starting your journey to produce caviar be aware that this is very labour-intensive and heavy manual work. It requires a huge amount of work: cleaning the snails, removing excrement and dead snails, installing egg-laying traps, sorting eggs manually under a magnifying glass, the processing stage, bottling and labelling. However if you find love and passion for doing this, the rewards are big and the joy of making something yourself can be worth it.
Read more interesting articles about snails:
- Snail Farming – Heliciculture
- Snail caviar
- Cherasco Worldwide Institute of Snail Breeding
- International Festival of Snail Breeding
- Meet the Snail Farmer – Ric Brewer
- National Escargot Day
- How to produce snail caviar
- Vienna’s Snail Festival
- How to set up a snail website