Podcast: Paddlefish Caviar and Cucumber Bites and the History of Caviar

These Paddlefish Caviar and Cucumber Bites are easy to create, yet they make an amazingly fantastic hors d’oeuvre for your next get together with family and friends. I love making these for a party because I can whip it all up from start to finish in just 10 minutes. Store-bought crackers are topped with dill cream cheese, cucumber slices, paddlefish caviar, and fresh dill. 

I’ve lived in North Dakota for 40 years, yet I’ve never taken advantage of the unique resource of paddlefish and the coveted caviar you can make with its roe. This year, I finally made the 7-hour drive from Fargo to the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence area near Williston where hundreds of men and women line the river beginning May 1 to try and snag a paddlefish with an 8 or 10-foot snagging rod. 

It’s an extremely challenging experience where you fish from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. throwing cast after cast, yanking a 5-ounce lead weight and large treble hook through the water trying to snag a giant beast and drag it to shore. Sometimes weighing in at over 100 pounds, these long-billed prehistoric looking river monsters are one of the most exciting fish you can attempt to catch in freshwater here in the United States.

After spending hours casting and dragging in the hot sun, I finally felt a tug on my line. “Fish on!” I yelled in excitement as my hook dug deep into the fish. The battle was intense, but I was determined to reel it in. As I tried to keep the rod tip high, I could feel the fish fighting back with all its might. Try to imagine the hard-charging tug of the biggest northern pike you’ve ever hooked into, then multiply that by a hundred!

I’m not a very strong and muscular guy, so it was with sheer determination that I finally managed to get the behemoth close to shore so my friend could grab it and pull it up onto the muddy bank. Despite feeling exhausted and sweaty, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for this incredible experience. As I sat next to the fish, I took a moment to reflect on the battle that had just taken place, feeling victorious and grateful for the opportunity to catch such a magnificent creature.

Read the written version of this recipe as prepared by Jeff Benda


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About Caviar:

The term caviar, coming from the Persian for “egg-bearing”, generally refers to salted fish eggs, or roe, from fish belonging to the Acipenseridae family, or the sturgeons. The fancy caviar as we know it actually refers only to eggs harvested from wild sturgeon caught in the Caspian and Black seas of Eurasia, though the term can be used loosely to refer to any of the salted fish eggs that we eat. 

To prepare it, fish eggs are gently removed from the membranous sack, or skein, that gets extracted from egg-bearing female fish. They are then rinsed off of any impurities and soaked in a salt brine for a specified amount of time. This curing process helps preserve the eggs and also adds flavour. 

Fish eggs will vary in size, colour, and flavour from fish to fish. Caviar, or fish roe, is eaten in different ways wherever cultures tend to catch a lot of fish. 

Let’s focus on the true form of caviar first, coming from Caspian sturgeons. 

True caviar can be split into three different types: beluga, ossetra, and sevruga. 

About Adam Berkelmans:

Adam Berkelmans, also known as The Intrepid Eater, is a passionate ambassador for real food and a proponent of nose-to-tail eating. He spends his time between Ottawa and a cozy lake house north of Kingston, Ontario. When not cooking, he can be found hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, reading, traveling, and discovering new ways to find and eat food.

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