State Fishery Pickles Caviar - Biggest U. S. ProducerMay 1st, 1949
By WADE H. MOSBY
Of The Journal Staff
Editor's Note: This article claims that the process was a "Smith trade secret." Indeed it was, with a patent being granted in 1927. Dan Smith also details the process and business side of this very profitable enterprise.
Port Washington, Wis.Some 40 years ago, or maybe it was only 39, Delia Smith lifted a spoon to her lips, tasted thoughtfully of a darkish sauce, and then made appreciative smacking noises.
When her husband came home, he went through the same routine.
"That," announced Delos Smith, "tastes to me like caviar should taste." He grabbed up the bowl and rushed down to the corner saloon.
The congregation within agreed that this. Indeed, was caviar, or at, least tasted like caviar, even if it was made of whitefish roe instead of the spawn of sturgeon.
An (sic) that's how the fishing Smith brothers got into the caviar business. Using the same ingredients that Delia Smith worked out by trial and error, the Smith plant here is completing the processing of a record season intake of 150,000 pounds.
Most Caviar in U. S.This according to Roy Uebele, purchasing agent and general overseer of the fish egg end of the business, makes the Port Washington firm the largest producer of caviar this side of the iron curtain.
There are only four such producers in the United States, Uebele says. The other three, all situated In New York state, also use whitefish roe, but not in the quantities packed by Smith Brothers. A few other firms pack shad roe, but not as caviar, and the west coast has had an intermittent run of salmon caviar makers.
In order to get enough roe to supply the demands of epicurean America, the plant here must rely upon small time fishermen in Lakes Michigan and Superior as well as the Smiths' commercial fleet.
Uebele makes murh of the fact that the roe used in Smith caviar is hand picked - that is taken from the fish in the egg sac and not handled with the rest of the fish's messy interior. As the roe is gathered it is salted and then refrigerated until it can be prepared and packed.
Recipe Is Trade SecretThe packing process is relatively simple. The roe, separated from the egg sac, is mixed with a coloring and the "pickling" ingredients a Smith trade secret - then vacuum packed in glasses or tins and sterilized. All that remains is the selling.
Oliver Smith, president of the company and one of the sons of Delos and Delia, said that the Smiths learned early in the game that whitefish roe -characteristically golden brown - had to be blackened to resemble sturgeon caviar before it could make a dent in the consumer market.
Smith caviar now has nation-wide distribution. Recently, a shipment was sent to Egypt, and there are possibilities of other exports to South Africa and South America.