Caviar is Sturgeon’s eggs that have been brined or salted and allowed to mature. For the longest time, the Soviet Union was the sole producer of caviar. But since 1953
Iran’s Caspian Coast started producing 180 tons of caviar annually (Russia produces 1800 tons annually). Now the Caspian Sea produces 98% of world’s caviar.
I have read in Larousse Gastronomique that caviar was first brought to France in 1920’s following the Exile of the Russian Princes. In 1925, the Petrossian Brothers learnt that caviar was known to very few French people. Hence Charles Ritz formally launched caviar by permanently offering it at his hotel. Caviar became popular and associated with luxury ever since.
There are 2 kinds for any caviar:
Caviar “in grains” and “pressed caviar”.
- “Caviar in the grains”, is what you can see in the picture above. It is the traditional whole grains of caviar.
- “Pressed caviar” or “Payusnaya” in Russian, is a smooth, dense, salty paste made from the grains that break during the packing of traditional caviar grains.
It is worth mentioning here that the term “red caviar” is common, however, incorrectly used. It is for salmon eggs, which are not ‘caviar’! The salmon eggs belong to fish roes.
While in essence it is all fish eggs, the term caviar applies only to sturgeon fish eggs.
Types of Caviar
Caviar can be sold fresh or sometimes pasteurised.
There are 3 types of caviar. The types are determined by size, colour and sturgeon species.
- BELUGA this is the most expensive type and is produced by the largest species of sturgeon (about 800 kg sturgeon). The eggs are dark grey, firm, heavy and well separated. These eggs are the biggest, but most fragile. When eggs burst, the caviar becomes very oily.
- OSETRA the eggs are smaller and more evenly sized. They are golden yellow to brown coloured and quite oily. This caviar is preferred by many over other types. They are viewed as a connoisseur’s favourite.
- SEVRUGA this caviar is produced by smaller sturgeons. The eggs are very small light to dark grey coloured. This caviar is the cheapest type.
When shopping for Caviar it is essential you verify the origin, type and freshness. These are all indicators of quality and affect the price tremendously.
Watch the video above for Caviar types.
The video below explores another type of very rare caviar, the most expensive caviar in the world, “The Beluga Albino Caviar”. Why is it so expensive, and why is it called the “Almas Caviar” (meaning diamond caviar)?
Watch and see…
Caviar is perishable and must be stored between -2 to +4 degrees C (28-39F).
Allow 50g per person (3 tbsp).
Remove the caviar from fridge one hour before serving and always serve it cold, but not frozen. The bowl containing the caviar should be placed on crushed ice.
Traditionalists believe that caviar should not be masked with accompanying flavours, instead it should be served plain and eaten straight with a mother of pearl spoon! That is very true, caviar should never be hidden underneath layers of strong flavours, instead it should be celebrated as the star that it is, fresh and prominent. The choice of the mother of pearl spoon is because metal spoons are believed to affect the flavour of caviar. While the purists will only have caviar alone by the spoonfuls, most people will have and serve it with blinis (recipe on this link), or lightly buttered toast all of which make excellent accompaniments. Other very common accompaniments are finely chopped onions, and finely chopped egg whites and creme fraiche. Never use lemon with Caviar as it offsets the taste of caviar (some do it, but it is absolutely not recommended)!
With that said, there are times when caviar can still be served with other flavours, it can be used to lend its unique texture, creamy experience, and hints of the sea (kind of like sea salt that bursts with creamy oil). One such good example, is the use of caviar as garnish to many preparations such as seared or raw scallops, seared Ahi Tuna; or when used in the making of sauces, even in the making of dips! Nothing too short of extra extravagance that people often like to display.
In general, if you wish to use it as part of a preparation, or alongside sides, you will never go wrong if you you choose mild flavours to accompany caviar in order not to lose much on its fabulous flavour. Pair it with mild flavoured creams or cream cheese, it also goes very well with salmon, and smoked salmon as well as with buttered toast and a shaving of salt. I have also posted a recipe using Caviar to top potatoes along with the story of why potato & caviar became a sensation at some point (the link for the recipe below). This is one such good use of caviar, tastes absolutely decadent!
Finally, one of my most preferred ways to have caviar is atop a light and tangy Champagne Granita or Champagne Sorbet, the whole experience is just out of this world! From the cool of the ice granules in the granita, to its tang against the delicate pieces of caviar, that will pop oozing out their oils lending a creaminess to an otherwise hard texture of ice. Then the loved texture of sorbet with each bite revealing more of the champagne flavours, you just will not want the experience to end!
Here are some links:
Caviar is delicious, absolutely luxurious. It is one of those foods you will need a bit of getting used to, however, it will grow on you and you will grow to appreciate its flavour and texture. Serve Caviar this New Year’s, treat your guests and enjoy the party 🙂
How about you, do you like Caviar? Which types of Caviar do you prefer to buy, those wild sturgeon caviar or school grown caviars? Do you have any caviar stories worth sharing? Would love to hear them.
It’s almost New Year! YAY!