The Epitome of Luxury in the Culinary World: Caviar
Oh, the mouth-watering thought of eating caviar on a buttery toast point in a fancy restaurant with your significant other. Beautiful!
There are not many delicacies in the world that come close to the exquisite taste and creamy luxury of this incredible seafood.
Many people pay a lot of money to get their hands on rare kinds of caviar (yes, there are many types) to enrich their meals and give their taste buds a touch of culinary heaven. Being one of the first to introduce this wonder to the world, Russians take all the accreditation for today’s caviar industry.
But what is caviar, and how do you source it? Why is it so mind-boggling expensive?
This article will take you through a learning journey of caviar types and prices so you can better understand the necessary details of this infamous delicacy. Let’s dive right into it.
What is Caviar?
Caviar, also known as fish roe, refers to a type of seafood consisting of sturgeon fish eggs that haven’t been subjected to fertilization yet. Sturgeon fish is a common name for fish belonging to the Acipenseridae family.
Until not so long ago, people only used wild sturgeon for edible purposes, but now many local farms are getting popular due to the scarcity of sturgeon fish in the ocean.
Anglers usually catch sturgeon that is moving from salt-intensive territory to freshwater areas searching for a place to lay their eggs. Since these fish are ripe and ready to be harvested, anglers get a good buck against their sale.
On the contrary, in local farms, an ultrasound system is set in place to detect whether a fish is ready to be harvested or not. And given that each fish lays millions of eggs depending on its size, the harvesting process is not as simple as you think.
This statement brings us to our next question.
Why is caviar so expensive?
As we mentioned, vendors source caviar from a specific type of live fish, which requires a lot of professionalism and effort.
Since this task is so labour-intensive, the price of the product goes up naturally. But that’s not the only reason why caviar typically costs an arm and a limb. Let’s list down the main reasons why caviar is so expensive:
The demand for caviar constantly exceeds its supply as we face the depletion of sturgeon fish in the natural habitat due to over-fishing.
On top of that, female sturgeon mature after several years of development (seven to 20 years) to produce eggs. And even though sturgeon can lay up to two million eggs at a time, the probability of a female fish spawning is incredibly low, where it may take between three to five years.
Limited Shelf Life
Another reason why caviar has such high value is its limited shelf life. It is standard practice to add salt to keep it shelf-stable for longer, but the highest quality caviar has the least salt required. Hence you can only keep it suitable for a few weeks before it starts to rot.
Did you know that the eggs from each female sturgeon have a manual harvesting procedure? Workers spend countless hours extracting the eggs carefully from the fish’s body to prevent breakage and maintain quality. These eggs are then washed, analyzed, and processed to prepare a final batch free of any rotten eggs.
Caviar Processing Methods:
We can divide caviar into two main types depending on their preparation methods. Here they are:
This practice refers to a Russian tradition of adding the least salt required to preserve the caviar. Many experts believe that Malossol is the ideal way to protect the quality of the caviar.
However, the low salt content makes this prized delicacy incredibly prone to contamination and might empty your wallet during the process due to its insane cost.
Salted caviar refers to the product that has more salt content than Malossol. If you prefer this kind, you have two sub-options:
- Pressed: Manufacturers make pressed caviar from eggs that are damaged or broken during the extraction or shipping process. Then they identify, treat, and pressurize these eggs to form a spread that you can use in many recipes.
- Pasteurized: This type of caviar refers to sturgeon eggs put through a heating process and sealed into jars for preservation. Since these eggs have gone through an industrial process, you may notice a change in colour, texture, or taste.
Types of Caviar and their Prices
Since there are up to 27 different species of the Acipenseridae family (10-12 species currently being harvested), you can get your hands on different types of caviar.
However, the quality and taste of each one are different from the other in a major or minor way. Let us list down the common types of caviar available in the market.
The rarest and delicious caviar known to us comes from beluga, which is illegal to hunt in most parts of the world now due to excessive hunting and endangerment of their species.
Typically native to the Caspian Sea, Beluga is incredibly famous in Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and more. Hence getting its name, “Black gold.” It ranges from a greyish colour to a dark black while containing the most decadent taste any caviar has to offer.
Beluga caviar prices are insane, with each kilogram (2.2 pounds) costing between 5,000 to 30,000 quid. Blimey! Can you imagine? It’s like paying for a brand new car.
Osetra Caviar is typically smaller in size than Beluga Caviar and exhibits a brown/golden colour.
Vendors judge the quality of the eggs by their weight; the less heavy they are, the more chances that the fish is older, making it better and expensive. Unlike Beluga, Osetra has a salty-fish taste that will remind you of the vast ocean.
Osetra Caviar has relatively forgiving pricing with a range of 2000 to 4000 quid per kilogram, but these caviar prices UK are still enough to give an average person a heart attack.
The next type of caviar is Sevruga. A delicacy that vendors source from three different kinds of sturgeon fish typically found in the Caspian Sea. These fish are Sevruga, Sterlet, and Siberian sturgeon.
Sevruga is incredibly popular due to its exquisite taste that dissolves in your mouth like butter. These eggs are usually grey and relatively smaller in size than other caviar.
This caviar will cost you 3,000 to 4,000 pounds per kilogram.
Kaluga Caviar is the most similar to beluga in terms of taste and feels in your mouth. It exhibits the same salty, buttery flavour that black gold offers, making it a luxury food. Kaluga is often huge and found in freshwater, where they regularly visit to lay their eggs.
You can get your hands on a kilogram of Kaluga caviar for about 1,500 pounds.
The last one on this list is American caviar. Throughout the significant part of the nineteenth century, American caviar remained extremely popular among enthusiasts and people looking for a delicious appetizer for their meals.
Typically sourced from lake sturgeon, white sturgeon, and wild Atlantic sturgeon, this caviar has made a return to bless the taste buds of people living today.
American Caviar is readily available for around 2,000 pounds per kilogram in the UK.
What goes with caviar?
Although caviar is best served on its own (preferably cold), there are many ways you can present it for added taste on top of its already delicious aroma. Here are a few options for you:
- Unsalted crackers
- Crème Fraiche
- Lemon wedges
- Minced onions
- Hard-cooked eggs
- Buttery toast points
It is essential to mention that caviar brings a sense of class and elegance to a social gathering where its representation and serving methods contribute to that sense of luxury. So it is always a good idea to pay extra attention to details while serving in front of an audience.
Additionally, caviar goes bad very quickly if exposed to heat and oxygen. And to keep it in good shape, you need to keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
Also, remember, you can always do a quick google search to stay up to date on new recipes and accompanying cuisine that is continuously finding new ways to please your taste buds.
5 Caviar Substitutes
Many people also eat eggs sourced from other forms of fish and sturgeons. These types of eggs may be relatively less rich in taste but prove to be more economical. Here are a few common caviar substitutes:
Also known as red caviar, salmon eggs pop in your mouth with each bite. Often used as a garnish in Japanese cuisine, red caviar costs way less, has a flavorful taste, and you can leave a lasting impression on your guests even on a low budget.
Trout roe is a popular delicacy worldwide due to its size, golden appearance, and fantastic taste. Like other types of caviar, trout roe serves best as an appetizer.
Seaweed caviar offers a great alternative to vegetarians and people who don’t like meat. To prepare it, the manufacturers roll the seaweed into small shiny balls and subject it to salts/spices for a delicious yet nutrition-rich substitute to regular caviar.
Hackleback eggs are very similar in colour to beluga caviar, dark brown, or black. Their exquisite nutty taste and mildly sweet flavour are prevalent among chefs worldwide. This species often resides in the rivers of Missouri and Mississippi in the US.
Paddlefish caviar has an earthy flavour and comes from a freshwater sturgeon that shows similar traits to many wild sturgeons in the Caspian Sea. They are often silver in colour, and motivated investors grow them on local farms.
Let’s jump into some frequently asked questions to address the many queries you might be having. Take a look:
How much does caviar usually cost?
The answer to this question depends on the choice of caviar you choose to buy as various species have different prices depending on their taste, quality and rarity.
Take beluga caviar for an example. The eggs from this species have a very high value due to their finger-licking taste and protein-rich composition. But these fantastic qualities led the pathway for excessive poaching and ultimately endangerment of beluga.
These factors all add up to the cost of the final product. And sellers ask for arbitrary prices from their customers ranging between 5,000 to 35,000 pounds per kilogram.
Of course, there are other options too, like Kaluga and Sevruga, that may cost you a lot less. And there is a higher chance that these types of caviar are within easy access to the general public from any reputable online store.
So you don’t have to spend hours trying to connect to a link that may or may not get you beluga caviar.
Is caviar eaten raw?
Yes. In most cases, caviar can be consumed raw or in cured form. Curing is done through added salts to preserve the quality of the eggs so they can stay good in your refrigerator for a few weeks.
A word of advice; do not try cooking caviar as it would most likely lose its nutrients and become inedible. And you wouldn’t want something this insanely expensive in the trash bin.
Can I eat caviar every day?
Yes. You can eat caviar every day if you can get your hands on a regular supply. It is known to be rich in Omega-3, minerals, and essential vitamins to keep your body healthy.
It is hard to argue with people who call caviar a superfood because they are correct about the enormous benefits.
Omega-3 significantly helps boost our immune system and strengthens our bones. And since there is a higher protein content in caviar, it can be great for people with a daily workout routine. Not to forget that only a single serving of caviar equates to your daily requirement of vitamin B12.
Why is caviar healthy?
As we mentioned, caviar is a rich source of essential minerals, vitamins, proteins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. And all these elements combine for a fantastic boost for your immune system and your bodily functions.
However, keep in mind that they also have relatively high calories, sodium, and cholesterol content. And as we all know, excess of everything is terrible. So you need to ensure that you do not exceed the advised serving of 30 to 50 grams for optimum health.
Why is caviar so salty?
Russians and Persian fishers started selling caviar as a part of the cuisine, but they didn’t have any refrigeration tools to keep them in good quality. So instead, they would cure them with salt and safely sell their product without concerns of the caviar going bad.
With the rise in popularity of this delicacy, the salty taste got associated with its being. And vendors continued to add salt even with the modernization of the refrigeration process.
So, in short, the salt is just there for tradition to retain the sense of familiar taste enjoyed by people worldwide since the introduction of caviar.
What is the difference between Caviar and Roe?
True caviar comes solely from sturgeon fish of the Acipenseridae family. Any other fish eggs, such as salmon, trout, etc., are not caviar and shouldn’t be referred to as one. However, many marketers and sellers label their roe as caviar to entice customers.
So be wary of the difference and ask your vendor relevant questions to confirm the authenticity of your purchase.
Why do you eat caviar off your hand?
People who aren’t familiar with caviar might be surprised to see someone eating a delicacy straight out of their hands. Why don’t you use a spoon?
What kind of a person eats food straight out of bare hands?
You might have loads of questions, but trust us, there is a logical answer.
You see, caviar is sensitive to metal and oxidizes immediately upon contact with any silverware such as spoons. This reaction results in a bitter metallic taste in your lovely appetizer that can ruin a good meal.
And, of course, nobody wants that. So people often use their hands, especially the backside between thumb and index finger, to eat caviar so that they can enjoy its authentic taste.
If you don’t want to use your hands, there are several non-metallic utensils available in the market that you can invest in to consume your caviar easily.
Here’s to hoping that this guide has efficiently informed you on the types of caviar and prices, so your next purchase is smooth and carefree. Keep in mind the tools and tips we provided you in the above text so you can enjoy this seafood wonder to its fullest.
We wish you a caviar-filled time with your beloved ones this holiday season. Cheers!
Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.
This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!