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What is Caviar


True Caviar or Just Fish Roe

Caviar can be broadly interpreted as to what it really is. True caviar comes from the prehistoric sturgeon fish only. All other fish eggs are not caviar, but referred to as roe or simply the name of the fish and eggs, such as with the popular salmon eggs. Before overfishing, sturgeons from the Caspian sea were harvested for their roe, called caviar, mainly from Iran and Russia as the two largest producers. Today, many fish farmers are harvesting captive imported sturgeons in different regions. Farmed sturgeon roe is still referred to as caviar, it does not need to come from the Caspian sea, but solely that it has to be harvested from sturgeon. There are many species of sturgeons found outside the Caspian sea, such as the waterways in and around the United States. The top three most prized sturgeons in the world are Caspian Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga. Keluga is similar to Beluga, but found in Chinese waters. Siberian sturgeons have been imported to countries with ideal environments where the fish can thrive and produce sustainable harvests.

 

Knowing Caviar Types and Grades

Labels on caviar containers generally describe the type of fish and its origins, such as American Siberian sturgeon or sevruga from Bulgaria. Grades start from 000 down to the lowest 0 being darker and smaller eggs. Classic, royal and imperial being the best, also describe the caviar's appearance in size and color of each individual pearl. Caviar's flavors are often described as salty, buttery, nutty with a taste of the ocean. However, different palates can vary in how each flavor is interpreted, therefore, grades are generally based on the appearance of the caviar. There are individual favorites, such as the mild flavors of the beluga or the rich taste of the ossetra caviar. Rare caviars such as Almas can top the most expensive delicacies in the world, but does not necessarily reflect a better taste for individual preferences.

 

Caviars of today

Most caviars on the market today are harvested from captive sturgeons. American and foreign farmers raise sturgeons from imported eggs or fingerlings which are young fish that are just a few inches. Each sturgeon gets checked and separated based on type and age of the fish. Fish reaching maturity are separated and checked regularly. Ultra sound is a method used by many to check whether the sturgeon is ready for harvest. Once it is determined that the sturgeon contains the prized fish eggs, they are removed in several ways. Traditionally, the fish was killed and the roe removed. In efforts to produce more sustainable supplies, harvesters have experimented and are using other methods which does not kill the fish such as a c-section. Caviar's prices are based on its rarity. Rare caviars such as Almas can top the most expensive delicacies in the world, but does not necessarily reflect a better taste.

 

New surging caviar market

There is a lot about caviar that is still a mystery to a vast number of consumers. It is difficult for an inexperienced palate to tell good caviar from lesser quality types. American Bowfin and Lumpfish caviar serve well as starter caviars. It is recommended to start with lesser expensive caviar and move your way up. For some, caviar may be an acquired taste, starting with the most expensive varieties is a costly learning experience. There are only a few basic principles to be aware of when purchasing caviar. Even long time caviar consumers, connoisseurs, chefs and critics have had to change many of their views on the recent larger market of farmed caviar. Taste and quality reviews are critiquing farmed caviar as they have wild caught caviar. Information about the farms which harvest and package the caviar is more available than previously. With better consistency from controlled farming environment, buyers can now expect to get the same caviar quality and taste regularly, with or without sampling first.