Types of Caviar and how to choose the best one
Caviar – one of the hallmarks of a luxurious lifestyle, the embodiment of hedonism, elegance, and sophistication in gastronomy. Served at galas and events thrown and hosted by the cream of society, certain types of Caviar are hardly associated with food. Still, they are more of a symbol, embodiment of hedonism and gourmet sophistication.
The best Caviar in gastronomy can amount to classical music, conceptual art, or haute-couture fashion. It reveals its true multidimensional nature to true aficionados who can recognize and appreciate the ingenuity and complexity of its taste.
Learning about different types of Caviar, you will discover a whole new world full of pleasures and sensations inaccessible for most people.
Just like training their bodies, athletes achieve the highest aesthetic image; learning about different types of Caviar prepares your taste palettes as well as your mind. It encourages self-knowledge and introduces you to a whole new world of gourmet sensations.
In this article, we shall talk about the phenomenon of Caviar and its establishment as a royalty of gastronomy. Moreover, we shall go over the main types of Caviar, their distinctive qualities, and features that will help you genuinely enjoy the product and start your journey to gourmet sophistication.
What is Caviar, and where does it come from?
Before talking about different types of Caviar and how to choose the best one, let's determine what is Caviar at all and what makes it so exquisite.
Technically, Caviar is unfertilized eggs of a wild sturgeon – a fish that belongs to the Acipenseridae family. And although today you may notice that roe from all sorts of fish is referred to as Caviar, United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, along with other reputable gastronomic and environmental associations, insist on calling such product "Caviar Substitutes."
The Caviar, as we know and appreciate it today, had officially started its glorious crusade to the tables of Greek nobility in the X century. Later on, it has become one of the hallmarks and a substantial asset in the culture and large-scale trade of the Byzantine and Russian Empires.
However, the product has been mentioned and described in ancient manuscripts that date back to the period of flourishing of the Persian Empire, where Caviar was associated with divine origin and powers.
Why is Caviar such a valuable delicacy?
Although today people hardly believe that any kind of food can have divine or magic properties, various types of Caviar are barely referred to as an ordinary food either.
Indeed, the best Caviar is a truly unique product. It has remarkable nutritious qualities and an exquisite combination of amino acids, protein, and vitamin B-12.
Along with its unique nutrition qualities, Caviar is famous for its genuine and unmistakable taste. Each type of Caviar has its unique notes and undertones, making the product and its consumer culture even more multidimensional and thrilling.
However, the value of the best Caviar in the world depends on various additional factors, the complexity of its extraction, proper storage, and serving, and other objective reasons that restrict its supply.
Let's go over the most significant ones:
- Harvesting. The best types of Caviar are harvested manually. Each roe is literally handpicked and selected according to the highest standards. Moreover, millions of eggs are also washed and prepared for storage manually—only this way can the supplier guarantee preservation of Caviar's taste, aesthetics, and nutrition qualities.
- Life cycle. The famous naturally nutty flavor so appreciated in the best types of Caviar is incredibly fragile and fleeting. Even if all the storage standards have been observed carefully, the best type of Caviar, also known as the "Malossol Caviar," can only survive several weeks without losing its hallmark taste.
- Breeding complexity. Depending on its type and breed, a female sturgeon can achieve maturity and start producing eggs being minimum of 7 and up to 20 years old. Considering the fact that Sturgeon breeding and Caviar extraction are all strictly regulated procedures, it requires significant financial, time, and manpower investment.
- Rarity. Due to overfishing, which has eventually put Sturgeon on the edge of extinction, manufacture, and trade of certain types of Caviar are heavily regulated by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and other environmental organizations. Along with the preservation of the species, those measures, of course, restrict the supply of Caviar.
Types of Caviar and differences between them
There are two approaches to the classification of different types of Caviar:
- By the method of Caviar preparation;
- By the type of Sturgeon, the Caviar comes from.
Let's take a closer look at both classifications to have a sufficient understanding of the difference between the best kinds of Caviar.
Types of Caviar by its preparation method.
Talking about Caviar preparation, we mean the way the roes have been processed after being extracted from the fish. The processing methods are responsible for the Caviar's shelf-life as well as texture and gourmet qualities.
Experts distinguish between 4 different types of Caviar according to its preparation:
- Malossol. It is one of the best, highly appreciated types of Caviar. The term "Malossol" can be translated from Russian as "Slightly Salted." Indeed, the method provides for the minimum use of salt in the process of Caviar preparation. As a result, the product preserves its unique flavors and nutrition features. Therefore this method is used for the best, the rarest types of Caviar with their unique and sophisticated flavors. However, as long as salt is the primary conservant, the less of it you use, the shorter is the lifecycle of the product. That is why Malossol Caviar is also among the most expensive ones.
- Salted. While technically all types of Caviar are "Salted," otherwise the product simply would not be able to survive till the moment it reaches your table; the amount of salt involved in the process determines its lifecycle as well as taste qualities. Salted Caviar is more affordable and widespread on the market. However, this method is hardly applied to the sophisticated types of Caviar as it severely alters the product's flavor.
- Pressed Caviar. While the best types of Caviar go through manual selection and therefore have an authentic grainy texture, broken and damaged eggs often become the so-called Pressed Caviar. After extraction, those roes are salted and pressed into a paste-like substance. Needless to say that this type takes texture and flavor out of the Caviar tasting equation.
- Pasteurized Caviar. The process of pasteurization significantly prolongs the shelf life of Caviar, making it most accessible. However, the procedure involved heat treating and vacuum packaging, which alters the flavor and texture of the product beyond recognition.
Types of Caviar according to the Fish Breed they come from
Talking about types of Caviar according to the fish breed, experts often distinguish between the so-called Real and Farmed Caviar.
However, as we have already noticed, the fact that Sturgeon has almost faced extinction due to unethical fishing, this classification becomes less relevant today. Modern Sturgeon farms have accumulated the necessary experience and breeding technologies that allow them to grow Sturgeon and produce Caviar of the finest quality while keeping the industry sustainable without endangering the wildlife.
That is why we shall focus on the Fish types rather than their breeding conditions and inhabitants.
- Kaluga Caviar. It is one of the best types of Caviar, which is highly appreciated by the product's aficionados as well as those who only start their gastronomic journey in the field of high cuisine. Kaluga Caviar is mostly famous for its texture due to smooth and large eggs. It also has a sophisticated buttery flavor. That is why Kaluga Caviar is normally the "Malossol" type, as it is essential to preserve its unique qualities.
- Beluga Caviar. Taking about the "Real Caviar," most experts mean the Beluga type. Indeed, the Caviar mentioned in the ancient manuscripts and historic chronicles were the Beluga one. Beluga is a large, one of the most ancient kinds of fish, which is native to the Caspian Sea. Throughout history, this region was a part of the Persian and Russian Empires, which are now considered pioneers of Caviar consumption. Beluga Caviar has a rich taste, unique grainy texture, and a distinctive pearl-grey-to-black color, which eventually gave the nickname "Black Caviar" to the whole product range.
- Russian (Diamond) Sturgeon. One of the rarest and, therefore, most appreciated and expensive types of Caviar. Female Russian (Diamond) Sturgeons reach their maturity only at the age of 10-16 years old and are considered the rarest type in the wild due to unscrupulous fishing in the past. The Caviar itself got its name from its distinctive texture and diamond-like shimmer in the artificial lighting. Its distinctive buttery flavor with no trace of "fishy" taste is called the etalon of the product.
- Sevruga Caviar. In fact, this type of Caviar comes from three different fish breeds - Sevruga, Sterlet, and Siberian Sturgeon. Their eggs are united into one type of Caviar due to their similar characteristics: small roes that create a smooth texture, pearly-grey color, and rich buttery flavor.
- Ostara Caviar. This type of Caviar is famous for its brown-to-golden color. Another distinctive feature of Ostera Caviar is the fact that the texture and quality of the product highly depend on the age of the fish it comes from. The older it is, the lighter and smoother the eggs are, and the richer is their flavor.
American Sturgeon Caviar. Caviar has the most peculiar history of coming to America and rising from a category of fish sub-product to an ultimate delicacy in American cuisine. Today American Sturgeon Caviar comes from wild Atlantic as well as lake sturgeon, which grows in the wild as well as numerous sturgeon farms all over the continent.
A Buying guide to Caviar – how to choose the best type of Caviar
There are certain factors you may need to consider buying Caviar. The first one is, of course, your familiarity with the product itself. Once you are only at the beginning of your gastronomic journey to high-cuisine, it is always best to start with high-quality and selected yet not too peculiar types of Caviar. While the smooth texture and buttery flavor of Malossol Kaluga Caviar is one of the most popular types, the more sophisticated and sharp, nutty notes may not be the best choice for beginners.
Another factor to consider is the occasion and what sort of crowd is invited to the party. It will determine not only the type of Caviar but also the amount of the product, which will allow everyone to enjoy its sophisticated flavor and won't let the precious roes get wasted.
While choosing the Caviar, it is also important to understand that you are dealing with a complex product. Its texture and even looks are as important for the overall tasting experience as the flavors.
While choosing the best kind of Caviar to make sure that:
- The product looks shiny, Eggs are glistering but don't look oily or murky;
- When you look at the grains in different dimensions, they sparkle like rhinestones at artificial lightening;
- Once you take Caviar into your mouth, the eggs feel distinct and separated. You can easily roll them on the roof of your mouth;
- The eggs need to pop themselves and literally melt on your tongue rather than create a sensation of a mushy paste-like product in the mouth.
Shopping for Caviar can be a thrilling process full of discoveries and challenges. Here are some fundamental tips that will help you choose the best kind of Caviar for your occasion:
Investigate the price
While most people think that the more expensive the Caviar is, the better, some merchants are using this gullibility and raise prices artificially.
Since you already know which factors influence the price tag and what the origin of different types of Caviar is, you can ask proper questions and understand whether the price is justified.
Except for paying attention to the product's texture, color and flavor, make sure to ask about the origin and processing.
Try not to "dive in."
While some might say that it is best to start with the high-end Caviar types to comprehend the true nature of the product, experts usually advise you to brace yourself and not dive into the luxurious segment right away.
True appreciators usually compare tasting Caviar to athletic training. The advice is to start with reputable and high-quality but not the most expensive types of Caviar and then move up as long as you develop a taste for the product.
The idea is that the rarest and most sophisticated kinds of Caviar have pretty complex flavors, which may simply go unnoticed once your taste palettes are not prepared for them properly.
Don't rely on your past experience.
It is essential to try the Caviar before every purchase. The idea is that being pretty delicate; the product can transform under certain circumstances. Even if you are buying the same type of Caviar from the same farm, there is no guarantee that the product will taste absolutely the same.
Even the most experienced gourmets taste Caviar; preferably from the very tin they buy, before each purchase to make sure that it corresponds to their expectations.
How much Caviar should I buy?
While the best types of Caviar have a rich and distinctive flavor, experts claim that one needs a serving of at least 5 grams (half teaspoon) to have a chance to discover and enjoy its taste and texture fully.
That is why you should buy at least a 30g (1oz) tin for a comprehensive serving for two people.
It is the most convenient formula that will help you count the perfect amount of Caviar to buy for your upcoming occasion.
When should I eat Caviar?
Caviar is a peculiar product that can be compared to wine and cheese. It is usually being kept and stored precisely until the moment the Caviar reaches its finest condition.
That is why it is essential to store your tip of Caviar refrigerated at home and make sure to eat it within several days after the purchase.
Caviar is a truly unique product. Throughout its history, different types of Caviar have been a part of a religious cult and medical studies. It has known its ups and down being served at the galas of powerful emperors and devalued to a fish sub-product.
Caviar has almost driven one of the most ancient fish species to extinction due to barbaric fishing and gave life to a prosperous industry, which now protects the environment, providing millions of jobs worldwide.
Tasting Caviar for the first time, you make the first step on one of the most thrilling gourmet adventures of your life; discover a multidimensional sensation and a whole world of flavors.
Like listening to opera or studying conceptual art, tasting Caviar enriches your life and soul with new knowledge and experience.
That is why it is essential to start your journey with a credible guide, who will guarantee you safe passage while introducing you to the sacred hidden gems, unavailable for a detached observer.
We hope that this guide will help you immerse into the thrilling and enriching world of the best types of Caviar and help you create your own impression, reaching out to the best types of Caviar in the world.