Caviar is such an exotic dish, showing up at those dinners at rich people's houses in the movies. Something that has a reputation for being available to the richest people on earth.
So what is caviar? It is processed salted roe also known as fish eggs. Although many types of roe are classified as caviar, true caviar comes from sturgeon and might be either Baluga, Osetera, or Sevruga.
Unfortunately, sturgeon is on the endangered list but the largest remaining sturgeon deposit is found in the Caspian Sea where its fished by both Russia and Iran. The Caspian Sea produces 85% of the worlds wild caviar. Caviar from any other source must be labeled with the type of fish its from such as Salmon Caviar.
Caviar is rated according to its size, color, and method of processing. The rating system used for its color is either 000 for light, 00 for medium, and 0 for dark. The very light or golden caviar is labeled Imperial or Royal because it was originally only served to royalty. The most expensive caviar is based on the fact that it is rare.
Caviar may undergo one of four processes.
1. Malossol is lightly salted and preferred by connoisseurs due to having no more than 5% salt content. Most modern caviar has only 3.5% and this type is described as high quality.
2. Salted Caviar is also known as semi-preserved because it can contain up to 8% salt. Although the increased salt content extends the shelf life, it can compromise the taste of the caviar.
3. Pressed Caviar is made from too soft or damaged, broken or over ripe eggs. It is highly salted and pressed so it resembles jam. At one point it was the primary method for preserving caviar and had a very concentrated flavor. It is popular among those who like a strong flavor.
4. Pasteurized Caviar is made from fresh caviar that has been heat treated and vacuum packed in glass jars. Both the quality and flavor may be effected.
Back to the three types of sturgeon who provide the world with caviar. The second rarest is the Baluga sturgeon but is much more common than the extremely rare Sterlet. Less than 100 Baluga sturgeon are captured each year. Its roe is large, ranging in color from pale grey to black, with a nice buttery flavor.
Next is Osetra Caviar consisting of medium sized eggs ranging in color from dark brown to light grey to a golden brown and has a nutty, slightly fruity flavor.
Last is Sevruga Caviar is the smallest of these three varieties, ranging in color from black to light grey and is more available than the other two while being the least expensive. Many people prefer the saltier, richer, buttery flavor over the other two.
Fun ending fact. At one time, America produced over 90 percent of the world's caviar. At one point, it was so plentiful that it was served in saloons and eaten as if it were peanuts. Imagine going from something that is so common to something with a reputation for being only for royalty. Have a good day.