Sturgeon is very occasionally caught in English waters. Bradley 1728 says; "They are in great esteem when they are fresh taken, to be ... roasted or baked; besides, to be pickled and preserv'd for cold Treats: And moreover, the Caviar, which is esteem'd a Dainty, is the Spawn of this Fish."
It is not clear where the idea that surgeon belong to the Crown comes from. King Edward II tried to claim ownership of all game, and this idea is repeated in the influential 1769 'Commentaries on the Laws of England' by Sir William Blackstone, but the 1865 case of Blades v Higgs seems to have settled the matter that game, including fish, always belong to whoever owns the land where they were caught, but who owns the sea in this regard is unclear. Sturgeon are now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Original Receipt in 'The Country Housewife and Lady's Director' by Prof. R Bradley, 1728 (Bradley 1728)
Of a Sturgeon, how it ought to be cured, for cold Meat, or dressed hot for the Table.
The Sturgeon is a Fish commonly found in the Northern Seas; but now and then, we find them in our great Rivers; the Thames , the Severn and the Tyne . This Fish is of a very large size; even sometimes to measure eighteen Foot in length. They are in great esteem when they are fresh taken, to be cut in Pieces, of eight or ten Pounds, and roasted or baked; besides, to be pickled and preserv'd for cold Treats: And moreover, the Caviar, which is esteem'd a Dainty, is the Spawn of this Fish.
To Cure, or Pickle, Sturgeon; from Hamborough.
Take a Sturgeon, gut it and clean it very well, within side, with Salt and Water; and in the same manner clean the Outside, wiping both very dry with coarse Cloths, without taking any of the great Scales from it: then take off the Head, the Fins and Tail; and if there is any Spawn in it, save it to be cured for Caviar. When this is done, cut your Fish into small Pieces, of about four Pounds each, and take out the Bones, as clean as possible, and lay them in Salt and Water for twenty-four Hours; then dry them well with coarse Cloths; and such Pieces as want to be rolled up, tie them close with Bass-strings, that is, the strings of Bark which compose the Bass Mats, such as the Gardeners use: for that being flat, like Tape, will keep the Fish close in the boiling, which would otherwise break, if it was tied with Pack-Thread. Strew some Salt over the Pieces, and let them lie three Days; then provide a piece of Wicker, made flat, aid wide as the Copper or Cauldron you will boil your Fish in, with two or three Strings, fasten'd to the Edges, the Ends of which should hang over the Edges of the Copper. The Pans we generally boil our Fish in, are shallow and very broad; then make the following Pickle, viz. one Gallon of Vinegar to four Gallons of Water, and to that quantity put four Pounds of Salt. When this boils, put in your Fish; and when it is boil'd enough, take it out, and lay it in single Pieces, upon Hurdles, to drain, or upon such Boards as will not give any extraordinary Taste to the Fish. Some will boil in this Pickle a quarter of a Pound of whole black Pepper.
When your Fish is quite cold, lay it in clean Tubs, which are call'd Kits, and cover it with the Liquor it was boil'd in, and close it up, to be kept for Use.
If at any time you perceive the Liquor to grow mouldy, or begin to mother, pass it through a Sieve; add some fresh Vinegar to it, and boil it: and when it is quite cold, wash your Fish in some of it, and lay your Pieces a-fresh in the Tub, covering them with Liquor as before, and it will keep good several Months. This is generally eaten with Oil and Vinegar.
To prepare the Caviar, or Spawn, of the Sturgeon.
Wash it well in Vinegar and Water, and then lay it in Salt and Water two or three Days; then boil it in fresh Water and Salt; and when it is cold, put it up for Use. This is eaten upon Toasts of white Bread with a little Oil.
To Roast a piece of fresh Sturgeon; from Mr. Ralph Titchbourn, Cook.
Take a piece of fresh Sturgeon, of about eight or ten Pounds; let it lie in Water and Salt, six or eight Hours, with its great Scales on: then fasten it on the Spit, and baste it well with Butter for a quarter of an Hour; and after that, drudge it with grated Bread, Flour, some Nutmeg, a little Mace powder'd, Pepper and Salt, and some sweet Herbs dry'd and powder'd, continuing basting and drudging of it till it is enough. Then serve it up with the following Sauce, viz. one Pint of thin Gravey and Oyster Liquor, with some Horse-Radish, Lemon-Peel, a bunch of sweet Herbs, some whole Pepper, and a few Blades of Mace, with a whole Onion, an Anchovy, a spoonfull or two of liquid Katchep, or some Liquor of pickled Walnuts, with half a Pint of White Wine: strain it off, and put in as much Butter as will thicken it. To this put Oysters parboil'd, Shrimps or Prawns pickt, or the inside of a Crab, which will make the same Sauce very rich; then garnish with fry'd Oysters, Lemon sliced, butter'd Crabs and fry'd Bread, cut in handsome Figures, and pickled Mushrooms. N.B. If you have no Katchep, you may use Mushroom Gravey, mention'd in the first Part of your Treatise, or some of the travelling Sauce in the same Book, or else a small Tea spoonful of the dry Pocket-Sauce.
To Roast a Collar, or Fillet, of Sturgeon; from the same.
Take a piece of fresh Sturgeon; take out the Bones, and cut the fleshy Part into Lengths, about seven or eight Inches; then provide some Shrimps, chopt small with Oysters; some Crumbs of Bread, and such seasoning of Spice as you like, with a little Lemon-Peel grated. When this is done, butter one side of your Fish, and strew some of your Mixture upon it; then begin to roll it up, as close as possible, and when the first Piece is rolled up, then roll upon that another, prepared as before, and bind it round with a narrow Fillet, leaving as much of the Fish apparent as may be. But you must remark, that the Roll should not be above four Inches and a half thick; for, else one Part would be done enough before the Inside was hardly warm'd: therefore, I have sometimes parboil'd the inside Roll before I began to roll it.
When it is at the Fire, baste it well with Butter, and drudge it with sifted Raspings of Bread. Serve it with the same Sauce as directed for the former.
A Piece of fresh Sturgeon boiled; from the same.
When your Sturgeon is clean, prepare as much Liquor to boil it in, as will cover it; that is, take a Pint of Vinegar to about two Quarts of Water, a stick of Horse-Radish, two or three bits of Lemon-Peel, some whole Pepper, a Bay-leaf or two, and a small handful of Salt; boil your Fish in this, till it is enough, and serve it with the following Sauce.
Melt a pound of Butter; then add some Anchovy Liquor; Oyster Liquor; some White Wine; some Katchep boil'd together with whole Pepper and Mace strain'd; put to this the Body of a Crab, and serve it with a little Lemon-Juice. You may likewise put in some Shrimps, the Tails of Lobsters, cut to Pieces, stew'd Oysters, or Cray-fish cut into small Bits: garnish with pickled Mushrooms and roasted or fry'd Oysters, Lemon sliced, and Horse-Radish scraped.
To make a Sturgeon- Pye; from the same.
Put to a quartern of Flour, two Pounds of Butter, and rub a third Part in; then make it into a Paste with Water, and roll the rest in at three times; then roll out your Bottom, and when it is in the Dish, lay some Butter, in pieces, upon it; and strew on that, a little Pepper and Salt. Then cut your Sturgeon in Slices cross-ways, about three quarters of an Inch thick, seasoning them with Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg and Lemon-Peel grated, till your Pye is full, and on the Top lay on Pieces of Butter; then close it, and put in, just before it goes to the Oven, some White Wine and Water; and when it is bak'd, serve it: garnish it with sliced Lemon, or Orange.
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