Caviar is a word that magically conjures glittering images of glamorous parties, black-tie suits and silver spoons…and unless you’re a Rockefeller, that’s probably not your style! Ironically, silver ruins the taste of caviar. Caviar is really a super simple food, eaten in the most uncomplicated of ways. Nothing could be easier than a spoonful of caviar over blini with crème fraiche. So let’s demystify one of the world’s most mystical foods, shall we?
WHAT IS CAVIAR? Caviar is…well, its fish eggs, as deliciously simple as that. Most specifically, caviar is the egg of the sturgeon fish, a rather homely species that used to thrive in the rivers and lakes of Europe. Examples of this fish are the Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga sturgeon. To be officially recognized as “caviar”, the eggs MUST come from sturgeon. Anything else is classified as “roe”. Nowadays the terms are usually interchanged and you’ll find most fish eggs used for food are referred as caviar. That includes then anything from lumpfish to salmon roe, and anything in between.
CASPIAN CAVIAR: Most sturgeon caviar used to come from the Caspian Sea, a sea that borders Russia and Iran (amongst other countries). So for a long time caviar came exclusively from the Caspian Sea, and Russia or Iran. Today, Caspian sturgeon has been so overfished that it’s protected and hard to obtain. The eco-friendly solution has been to harvest and breed sturgeon like Osetra and Sevruga in other countries, so you’ll find Caspian Osetra coming from places like Israel or Uruguay. This is the same fish you find in the Caspian Sea, only raised somewhere else, making caviar production more sustainable. The quality and flavor is intact!
SEVRUGA CAVIAR: Sevruga caviar is the smallest and most abundant of all the sturgeon caviars. Flavor wise, Sevruga is stronger than Osetra, yet still smooth and buttery. The color is a gorgeous grey that varies from light silver to an imposing steel grey. Sevruga was fished in the Caspian Sea, however today it is farmed with great success in aqua farms around the world.
OSETRA CAVIAR: Osetra caviar comes from the Osetra sturgeon, originally fished in the Caspian Sea. Overfishing led to the successful inception of sturgeon farms, and today’s Osetra caviar farmed in France, Italy, Israel, the United States and Uruguay. Some aqua farms give their caviars unique names to differentiate it, for example, Caviar de Venise is Italian Osetra, and Karat is Israeli Osetra. Because there are many different types of Osetra caviars, the color and size of the eggs vary, so you can find black, yellow and even blue Osetra caviar. In general, Osetra is milder in flavor than Sevruga, so Osetra is great for people who like a more subtle taste.
There are many caviars and roes, but you’ll find there’s good reason why the word caviar is reserved for sturgeon eggs like Osetra and Sevruga. Real, classic sturgeon caviar has an unparalleled flavor and texture, one that food connoisseurs covet and adore.