Black Gold: A Comprehensive Guide to Types of Caviar
Caviar is the unfertilized roe of the female fish and is used as a food product or rather as a delicacy, usually as a dressing, as an appetizer, or even as a flavor enhancer (for example, in soups or sushi).
Black caviar is the most demanded but also the most expensive. It is obtained from the female sturgeon fish, a fish with dozens of varieties, the best known being the beluga sturgeon (not to be confused with the cetacean variety with which it has nothing to do), the osetra or the sevruga.
The varieties of caviar
The different types of caviar are classified according to the variety of sturgeon from which they come. For example, beluga sturgeon is the source of beluga caviar. It is estimated that there are about 50 species of sturgeon in the world.
The sturgeon can spawn on multiple occasions during its life, which can be over 100 years and can weigh up to 800 kilos.
The bigger and firmer the eggs are and the lighter their color, the better the quality of the caviar. The best looking caviar is the one that shines with a touch of gold, this is why it is also known as “black gold”.
The most famous varieties of caviar come from three species that live in the Caspian Sea: Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga. It cannot be said that there is better caviar than another, since each one has its favorite, although the truth is that beluga caviar is the most appreciated by most people.
It can also be said that caviar is said to have many beneficial properties for health: it is antioxidant, improves circulation and its consumption provides about 250 calories per 100 grams. It provides the body with vitamins A and D, as well as minerals such as sodium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Caviar is also rich in omega fatty acids.
In any case, we must take into account that it is a product that is consumed occasionally and normally in small portions, which is why its contribution to the diet is usually not very significant.
Beluga CaviarThe beluga sturgeon caviar (not to be confused with the cetacean) is said to be the best caviar and also the most expensive. Beluga sturgeon is a fish that can reach 140 years of age, measure 6 meters long, and weigh between 40 and 300 kilos (sometimes it reaches 800 kilos). This fish is native to the Caspian, Azov, Black and Adriatic seas. The female reaches sexual maturity between 18 and 20 years before producing eggs.
Its pearls can be 3-4 millimeters in size, have a very soft, smooth, and buttery texture. Their color varies from greyish (almost transparent) to dark grey. The best caviar is the one with the biggest and lightest roe.
A variety of this caviar is the caviar with souls (light yellow) that comes from the albino beluga sturgeon, being very rare. It is the most expensive caviar in the world and can reach 40,000 euros per kilo.
Oyster sturgeon can reach 60 years of age, measure 2 meters, and weigh between 40 and 130 kilos. It reaches sexual maturity between 12 and 15 years old. The size of the pearls is slightly smaller than that of beluga whales (between 2.5 and 3 millimeters in diameter). Their colors range from grey (Osetra caviar) to amber (Osetra Imperial caviar).
Sevruga lives on average for about 30 years, reaches a height of 1.5 meters, and weighs about 30-40 kilos. Native to the Caspian Sea. It is the most widespread, so about half of the production of caviar is obtained from the sevruga sturgeon. Its caviar is smaller in size. For this reason, it is more economical than the previous ones. Its color is light grey to dark grey
Other types of caviar
The above are the best-known types of caviar but there are many other varieties:
- Kaluga caviar. It is obtained from the Kaluga sturgeon, which comes from the Amur River basin in China. Its pearls are large and soft, with brown shades and a creamy texture.
- Caviar schrencki. It comes from the Schrenki sturgeon, also originating from the Amur River in China. Its grains have a golden color and are of medium size.
- Caviar naccarii. It comes from the Adriatic Sea sturgeon. Its caviar is dark and small.
- Baeri caviar. It is obtained from Siberian sturgeon species. It is widely cultivated in France in the Aquitaine basin. Its pearls are also dark and small.
Caviar is a product that is very sensitive to the environment and the material with which it comes into contact. For this reason, it is vacuum packed in glass jars or cans, as these are the two containers that best protect it from the outside and can be hermetically sealed under vacuum.
While the glass container allows the product to be seen inside, it is a more fragile container in the event of a fall. In any case, the important thing is that the packaging (whether glass or tin) is properly vacuum-packed and correctly labeled with the origin of the caviar, the type of sturgeon, the manufacturer, the components, or the expiry date. This last aspect is very important since, despite being vacuum packed, caviar can expire in a few months.
Preservation and consumption of Caviar
Caviar can be sold as a 100% natural product without additives so that it retains its flavor better, but this means that it has a shelf life of a few weeks.
To extend its expiry date, additives are added to the caviar for its conservation, whether natural or artificial. It can also be subjected to a light pasteurization process (about 15 minutes at a temperature of 60 degrees). In this way, it can extend its shelf life to 12 months.
According to the production method, the most common caviar is Malossol, a Russian word that means “low salt”, and refers to the method of elaboration using very low doses of salt and low temperatures during the process to try to maintain the genuine flavor of the caviar.
You must bear in mind that caviar must always be kept in the refrigerator between approximately -2 and 2 degrees until you consume it. It should not be frozen as its firmness deteriorates. Once the package has been opened, you should consume it immediately or, at most, within 4-6 days, as contact with the air causes it to lose its flavor.
For this reason, you should be very clear about how much you need to buy. The packages sold in stores usually range from 15 grams to 500 grams or more. The larger the package, the lower the price tends to be in proportion to the quantity. The most common packages for black caviar, given its high price, are usually those of 50 and 100 grams.
When consuming it, the quantity of each portion will depend on the tastes of each one, but normally if it is taken alone it is considered that a suitable portion of caviar should contain about 30 grams, while if it is used accompanied by blinis or toasts, those 30 grams would be good for 2-3 portions.
In any case, these are approximate figures so you can get an idea of the amount of caviar to buy.