Beluga Caviar

Beluga Caviar is considered by many the king of Caviar. Beluga Caviar roes are the largest on the market and come quite logically from the largest of all sturgeons (up to 6 meters/20 feet in length), the Beluga (aka Huso Huso) which is a critically endangered species. As a result the Unites Sates Fish and Wildelife Services have banned its importation in 2005. For more information about  legal rules and regulations relating to importing Beluga caviar you can visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Beluga Sturgeon

Beluga (Huso Huso) sturgeon

The Beluga sturgeon is found primarily in the Caspian and Black Seas  and sometimes in the Adriatic Sea. The Beluga name comes from the fish colour, it is the Russian word for white.

In the wild a female Beluga will not mature until 15 to 25 years of age and may not spawn every year. In captivity however, with the right temperatures and a rich protein diet this can happen in as little as six years. 25% of its body weight might be roes only and that percentage has been known to be higher in the past (record up to 50%).

Beluga Caviar

Beluga Caviar

Beluga Caviar grains are large with a fine skin. Beluga caviar has a strong consistency and iodine flavour and for many an unrivalled development on the palate. Taste is subtle, creamy or buttery,  long lasting with a fresh oceanic touch that experts may call a faint flavour of the sea. Roes color can vary from very pale to very dark. Lightest coloured Caviar is often highly searched for and appreciated even though the taste should not be a matter of colour.

The combination of above factors make Beluga Caviar the priciest and rarest Caviar with market prices ranging from $7,000 to $10,000 per 1 kg (2.2 lb) or $200–$300 per ounce. It is generally sold in Blue tins and often very hard to find. If at the beginning of the 20th century it represented around 40% of sturgeons catches that percentage is down to less than 1% today.

One of the most famous Beluga Caviar ambassador is the most famous secret agent, mister James Bond who is known for his expensive taste.

Bond is tempted by Beluga Caviar in several movies, including Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, A View to A Kill, The World is Not Enough and Casino Royale.

One of James Bond movie character, Valentin Zukovsky, is actaully producing Caviar.

Zukovsky Caviar Label

Zukovsky Caviar Label

Buying Caviar

Caviar name
Scientific Latin Name
Common Name
Buy
BELUGAHuso husoGiant sturgeon (Beluga, Great Sturgeon)http://www.caviarastrakhan.com/
OSETRAAcipenser gueldenstaedtiiRussian Sturgeon, Danube Sturgeonhttp://www.caviarastrakhan.com/
OSETRA, KARABURUNAcipenser persicusPersian Sturgeonhttp://www.caviarexpress.com/
OSETRAAcipenser nudiventrisShipp Sturgeon
SEVRUGAAcipenser stellatusStellate Sturgeon, Sevruga, Star Sturgeonhttp://www.caviarastrakhan.com/
STERLETAcipenser ruthenusSterlethttp://www.caviarrusse.com/
BAERIIAcipenser baerii baeriiSiberian Sturgeonwww.caviarhouse-prunier.com
BAERIIAcipenser baerii baicalensisBaikal Sturgeon
AmericanAcipenser transmontanusWhite Sturgeonhttp://www.sterlingcaviar.com/
HacklebackScaphirhynchus platorynchusShovelnose Sturgeonhttp://www.caviarcaviar.com/
Acipenser naccariiAdriatic Sturgeon, Italian Sturgeonhttps://www.caviarderiofrio.com
Acipenser schrenckiAmur Sturgeon, Japanese Sturgeonhttps://www.petrossian.com/
KalugaHuso dauricusKaluga Sturgeonhttp://www.caviarrusse.com/
BreviroAcipenser brevirostrumShortnose Sturgeonhttp://www.breviro.com/

Caviar Types

#
Caviar name
Scientific Latin Name
Common Name
Place of Origin
Farmed Caviar
1BelugaHuso husoGiant sturgeon (Beluga, Great Sturgeon)Caspian, Azov and Black seasBulgaria, Iran, USA, South Korea
2OsetraAcipenser gueldenstaedtiiRussian Sturgeon, Danube SturgeonCaspian, Azov and Black seasBulgaria, China, Israel, Germany, France, Italy, Viernam, USA, UAE, Uruguay, South Korea
3Osetra, KARABURUNAcipenser persicusPersian SturgeonCaspian and Black seasIran, Italy, Bulgaria
4OSETRAAcipenser nudiventrisShipp SturgeonCaspian and Aral seas
5SevrugaAcipenser stellatusStellate Sturgeon, Sevruga, Star SturgeonCaspian, Azov and Black seasBulgaria, USA, Italy, South Korea
6STERLETAcipenser ruthenusSterletEuropean and West Siberian riversRussia
7BAERIIAcipenser baerii baeriiSiberian SturgeonSiberian lakes and riversFrance, Italy, China, Bulgaria, USA, UAE, Vietnam, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, Estonia, Finland, Belgium, Uruguay
8BAERIIAcipenser baerii baicalensisBaikal SturgeonSiberian lakes and rivers
9AmericanAcipenser transmontanusWhite SturgeonNorth America Pacific CoastUSA, Canada
10HacklebackScaphirhynchus platorynchusShovelnose SturgeonMississipi and river system
11Acipenser naccariiAdriatic Sturgeon, Italian SturgeonAdriatic sea and riversSpain
12Acipenser schrenckiAmur Sturgeon, Japanese SturgeonChina
13KalugaHuso dauricusKaluga SturgeonAmur Delta
16BreviroAcipenser brevirostrumShortnose SturgeonNorth America Atlantic Coast, Canada Saint John River systemCanada
14Acipenser sinensisChinese SturgeonYangtze River system
15Acipenser sturioCommon Sturgeon, Baltic Sturgeon, European Sea SturgeonEurope, Atlantic Coast, west Asia
17Acipenser dabryanusYangtze SturgeonYangtze River system
18Acipenser fulvescensLake SturgeonGreat Lakes
19Acipenser mikadoiSakhalin Sturgeon
20Acipenser oxyrhynchus oxyrhynchusAtlantic SturgeonNorth America Atlantic Coast
21Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoiGulf Sturgeon
22Pseudoscaphirhynchus fedtschenkoiSyr-Dar Shovelnose
23Pseudoscaphirhynchus hermanniSmall Amu-Dar Shovelnose
24Pseudoscaphirhynchus kaufmanniLarge Amu-Dar Shovelnos
25Scaphirhynchus albusPallid Sturgeon (White Hackleback,White Shovelnose)Mississipi and river system
26Scaphirhynchus suttkusiAlabama Sturgeon
27Acipenser medirostrisGreen SturgeonPacific Coast of Asia

Caviar Substitutes

Intro

Paddlefish Caviar

Paddlefish Caviar

Paddlefish Caviar

Snail Caviar – Caviar d’escargot

Bellor French pearls Snail Caviar

Bellor French pearls Snail Caviar

Red Caviar (Salmon Caviar)

Salmon Caviar 4.5 oz - Ikura American Keta Sushi Grade

Salmon Caviar 4.5 oz – Ikura American Keta Sushi Grade

Cavi·art® (Seaweed-Caviar)

Cavi·art® Products also known as Seaweed-Caviar

Cavi·art® Products also known as Seaweed-Caviar

Lumpfish Caviar

Lumpfish Caviar

Lumpfish Caviar

Whitefish Caviar

Whitefish Caviar

Whitefish Caviar

Herring roe

Onuga Herring roe

Onuga Herring roe

Shellfish roe from crab, lobster and sea urchins

Lobster Caviar

Lobster Caviar

Sevruga Caviar

Sevruga Marky's Caviar

Sevruga Marky’s Caviar

Sevruga Caviar completes our trio of main Caviar types together with Beluga and Osetra. If it is slightly less expensive than the other 2, its intense taste is well appreciated by connoiseurs.

Sevruga Caviar eggs are  smaller in size than those of other sturgeons. However, what it lacks in size, the Sevruga more than makes up with it’s intense flavor. It is saltier and richer in taste. Chefs and hosts throughout the world appreciate to serve it to guests due to his fine flavour. It is typically the fittest for canapes and blinis. Sevruga Caviar is generally sold in red tins.

Sevruga Caviar comes from Acipenser stellatus also known as Sevruga Caviar. This sturgeon is native to the Caspian, Black, Azov and Aegean seas.

Acipenser Stellatus-Sevruga Sturgeon

Acipenser Stellatus-Sevruga Sturgeon

Sevruga is also the smallest of the caviar-producing sturgeons. It can reach up to  7 feet in length and wiegh around 150 lbs. If Sevruga is the most abundant of the 3 main Caviars sturgeon types it still hits the list of critically endangered species. The female Sevruga reaches maturity between 7 to 10 years, earlier than other sturgeons.

Sevruga is probably the sturgeon we are most used to see. Its elegant lines makes it the most common choice for logo in the caviar industry.

Caviar Timeline

300 BC – Aristotle comments on quality of sturgeons eggs

1240 – Batu Kahn eats Caviar in Orthodox Christian monastery

1280 – Orthodox Christian church approves Caviar for fasting

Late 1400’s – heavily salted Caviar shipped to Italy, Italian proverb “whoever eateth cavialies, eateth salt, dung, and flies”

1500’s – King Edward II of England proclaims all sturgeon caught were to be turned over to him

1675 – Tsar Alexei Michailovich Romanov  decree, Caviar becomes a monopoly of the stateunder exclusive authority of the Tsar.

1682 – Peter the Great encouraged exports – however spoilage

Early 1700’s – Caviar same price as butter in St. Petersburg

1760’s – Catherine the Great controlled export closely, Caviar firmly associated with Russian aristocrats

1780’s – Ioannis Varvarkis revolutionized Caviar trade with linden tree barrels, employed 3000 in Astrakhan

Early 1800’s – Industrial Revolution creates new wealth in Europe and a taste for exotic treats such as Caviar

Mid 1800’s – Europeans frustrated with Russian control of supply, Europeans begin to look elsewhere for Caviar

1879 – Russia Lianozovs manage to lease bulk fishing rights in the Iranian waters, they bring Russian Caviar “savoir faire” to Iran

1917 – Bolshevik Revolution, communists take control of Caviar industry

1921 – Iran cancels Russians lease and starts running fisheries on its own

Late 1960′s – Caviar now promoted as an Iranian icon ignoring fatwas who declared it unclean for muslims (fish without scale)

1983 – Sturgeons considered Halal after scientists discover scales, Caviar booms in Iran

Late 1990′s – Crisis in the Caspian, sturgeons are stuggling due to overfishing, poaching and a jellyfish invasion

1998 –  international trade in all species of sturgeons is regulated under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) owing to concerns over the impact of unsustainable harvesting and illegal trade in sturgeon populations in the wild

2005 – US bans importation of beluga Caviar from Caspian Sea and Black Sea basins

2006 – Cites bans export of Wild Caviar

Osetra Caviar

Russian sturgeon

Russian sturgeon

Osetra Caviar (aka Ossetra) is the second golden child of the Caviar family and is still causing quite some confusion in the Caviar industry and for Caviar amateurs.
The reason for that is the meaning of Osetra in Russian “осётр” (“осeтр”): sturgeon of any species. Strictly speaking however Osetra Caviar comes from Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (Russian sturgeon) or Acipenser persicus (Persian Sturgeon). We will call them Osetra sturgeons.

Russian sturgeon can grow up to about 235 cm (93 inches) and weigh around 115 kg (254 lb). They cannot mature and reproduce quickly, making them highly vulnerable to fishing.

Following the situation in Caspian and Black Seas, six sturgeon species besides Huso Huso and Osetra sturgeons, along with some hybrids, are farmed for caviar. With sometimes indeed a subtle difference between species (even at genetic level) some Caviar protagonists seem to be taking advantage of the confusion by labeling those farmed Caviars as Osetra. Example include selling under Osetra Caviar made from Siberian sturgeon or from white sturgeon.

Genuine Osetra Caviar is however farmed in Germany, Israel, China, Bulgaria and Italy.

Russian Osetra Caviar

Russian Osetra Caviar

Osetra Caviar is among the most expensive foods in the world and is generally priced between Beluga and Sevruga Caviar. The worlds finest Osetra caviar is found in the Caspian or Black Seas. It enjoys a wider variety of flavor, size and colours than other Caviar types. Experts explain this high variability by the fact Osetra sturgeons are bottom feeders and roes flavor are a consequence of whatever they eats.

Caspian Osetra Sturgeons are critically endangered species.

Osetra Caviar traditionally comes in yellow tins.

Osetra Caviar is characteristized by a nutty flavor and firm, juicy grains with colours ranging from a light to a rich brown that can have golden highlights.

Golden Caviar

Even though definition can vary according to source, Golden Caviar, White Caviar, Royal Caviar or Imperial Caviar are all synonyms of extremely rare Caviar coming either from an albino sturgeon (Beluga or Osetra) or from one over 60 years old.

The flavor of albino eggs is described as being incredibly light, delicate, soft and creamy.

This delicacy used to be set aside for the reigning elite such as emperors, popes, tsars and shahs. In Iran, until not so long ago, impudents who dared eating Golden Caviar used to have their right hand cut off.

It is the rarest and most expensive Caviar type on the market. The most expensive of them all (confirmed by Guinness World Records) being the Caviar House & Prunier ‘Almas’ (алмаз Russian for diamond) from an old wild Iranian Beluga (aged between 60 and 100 years old) that swims in the less polluted southern Caspian Sea waters. It comes in a 24-karat gold tin with a golden spoon, a kilo of this caviar is sold for £18,500 / $27,000. If you are intererested to buy some you will be waitlisted.

Almas Caviar from Caviar House &P runier London

Almas Caviar from Caviar House & Prunier London

There are at least 2 Caviar farms that propose Golden Caviar.

The first one is Mottra’s Fram in Latvia who even developped a unique method of harvesting eggs without killing the female sturgeon by massaging or stripping roes from the fish.

The second one is former economist Han Sang Hun’s farm in South Korea which he started in 1997 after having brought back 200 sturgeons from Russia. Mr Han’s team has also developed  “sustainable” egg-harvesting skills involving making a very small incision to collect the roes.

Caviar Preparation

Pressed Caviar (“Ikra payousnaya”)

Popular in Eastern Europe, Pressed Caviar is made from Caviar that has been damaged during processing or from eggs remaining from different batches. It is a densed dark roe blend mass that can be spread or sliced. It is very concentrated as 1 kg of pressed Caviar contains anything from 4 to 6 kg of Caviar roes. It is very salty with a fishy taste. The strong, sharp taste is favored by connoiseurs. Pressed Caviar is often present in early accounts before more modern preservation methods arose (refrigeration and pasteurization).

Pasteurized Caviar

Pasteurization is a preparation method that increases shelf life but can make the eggs firmer. If the Caviar comes in a glass jar it is most probably pasteurized. In order to pasteurize Caviar cans or jars are immerged in a hot-water bath at 60-63 degrees celsius. Length of time depends on the container size. After this treatment Caviar can be kept for a year without refrigeration.

Malossol Caviar

Malossol is not a separate variety of Caviar. Malossol is a Russian word literally translating to “little salt”. It is used to describe a way of salting Caviar as in “Malossol Caviar”. It is always sold in tins.

Sturgeon Showelnose Malossol Caviar (230g 8oz)

Sturgeon Showelnose Malossol Caviar (230g 8oz)

The term Malossol was originally used to distinguish high grade Caviar from ordinary Caviar indicating that it had not been oversalted (between 3-5%) and was of the highest quality and taste.

Nowadays Malossol Caviar for European and Russian markets contains anything between 2.5 and 4% salt with 0.5% borax. Borax being banned in the US, its Malossol is saltier (3 to 8%).

 

Salted Caviar

Caviar with higher salt content, 6 to 15%.

Caviar Production

Even though Caviar preparation is a fairly simple process that has only marginally evolved over the last hundred years, it requires expertise that takes years to be built. Preparing Caviar is even considered a hand-made art form.

Whether we are dealing with sturgeons from aqualculture or living in their natural habitat, steps to obtain the precious golden eggs follow a logical sequence.

Sturgeon echography

One of the first step of Caviar preparation is understanding whether or not the female sturgeons roes are mature enough to be harvested and processed.

This means a trip to an ultrasound station. The roes must reach optimum maturity, just before natural spawning takes place. That is  between 5 to 8 years for most of aqualculture sturgeons and roes reach a diameter between 2 to 4 mm. If the screen reveals part of the sturgeon precious content, a biopsy would be necessary to confirm the roes readiness for processing.

Ovaries harvest

When roes are confirmed to be ready for harvesting, female sturgeons are taken to the processing site where the fish and its roes will be handled under strict hygienic conditions.

The ovaries are removed from the sedated sturgeon by splitting its underside with a sharp knife. Ovaries are the organ who produces the eggs and are comparable to grapes on a vine. they are almost as long as the fish itself and contains ten of thousands of eggs. A female sturgeon can contain anywhere between 10 to 20% of its body weight in its 2 ovaries.

Caviar harvest

Caviar harvest

They need to be quickly removed because an enzyme who could alter their taste is realeased from the dead fish.

Envelop and roes are weighted, measured and an identification number is given for traceability.

Following that, some producers proceed with assembly where they will sort the ovaries according to roes colour, texture and the type of Caviar they wish to obtain. It is striking to observe the variation between roes of sturgeons belonging to teh same species and generation. Roes colour can vary from cream to dark black.

Sieving

Caviar Sieving

Caviar Sieving

 

Ovaries are then worked through a sieve with the palm of the hand for optimum control in order to remove the membrane and reveal the precious eggs.

 

 

Washing station

Rinsing Caviar

Rinsing Caviar

 

Roes are then rinsed several time to wash away impurities that went down during sieving generally using filtered water. Final touch may require a tweezer. Once ready future Caviar is dried and weighted.

 

 

Salting

Roes are now carefully salted to maximise their future flavour and for conservation purposes becoming our precious Caviar in the process.

Caviar salting

Caviar salting

Each Caviar producer will have its own salting process secret and will chose the salt type (pharmaceutical grade, precise region or mine) and exact amount based on roes origin, total weight, maturity, texture and what he wants to achieve.

Traditional Caviar has also some Borax added to it which further sweetens the product and increases its shelf life.

Borax is one of the reason never to taste Caviar using metal as a chemical reaction will alter the Caviar taste.

Grading

Sterling Caviar grading

Sterling Caviar grading

It is now time to taste the result of our effort and verify that there is no issue with the freshly made Caviar. If there isn’t, Caviar is graded according to each producers scale.

Caviar quality controllers are looking for a good pop in mouth that is prefered comparing to a too soft Caviar.

Universal Caviar grading:

Grade 1
Grade 1 Caviar is Caviar that ideally combines all properties; it must be firm, large grained, delicate, intact, of fine color and flavor.
Grade 2
Grade 2 Caviar is Caviar with normal grain size, very good color and fine flavor.

Packing

Caviar packing

Caviar packing

Caviar is finally packed into a lacquer lined tin and pressed down to eleminate any air pocket . Those tins have been used for more than hundred years as no better conservation means have been found.

They are then sealed with a wide rubber band and can be kept refrigerated for approximately a year.

 

Caviar maturation
Once packed Caviar life is actually just starting. It will absorb salt, swell up, and its characteritcis and flavour will change while quality will rise.

Sturgeon Showelnose Caviar (900g 32oz)

Sturgeon Showelnose Caviar (900g 32oz)