I'm sure if someone asked you what some of the most expensive foods were, caviar would be one of the foods you list. However, how much do you know about caviar? Why is it so expensive? In an article from the OC Executive, plenty of information about this delicacy was shared, and after sleuthing a bit, I decided to put together a quick post on caviar for your knowledge too!
So let's remove the prestige. What is caviar? Simply put, it is fish egg. Alright we can get a little more specific than that. Caviar comes from the sturgeon, and the other, less elite term for it would be sturgeon roe. These eggs are non-fertilized, brined, salted, and matured before being sold. So why is it so expensive? We only have ourselves to blame for this predicament as caviar used to be very abundant. However, once the USA and Canada got wind of this deliciousness, they started harvesting and selling 600+ tons per year in the 1800s. Good job, us! The overfishing of sturgeon led to a ban in 1906 and thus began the reign of the hard-to-come-by product. The finest caviar may empty your wallet at $16,000 per kilogram (about $450 per ounce).
Caviar was first discovered and consumed by the Persians who believed that it was very medicinal and would increase sexual prowess. When the concept fell into the hands of the Romans and Greeks, they began parading this supposed cure-all as a delicacy to be revered. This mindset persisted for years until the US discovered a goldmine of sturgeon to get caviar from. At that point, it became so readily available that saloons were serving it for free (saltiness makes people drink more after all). Due to overfishing, it is now a rarer food item and with a price to boot.
Types of caviar
- Beluga - the most expensive from the biggest sturgeon only found in the Caspian Sea; eggs are the biggest (size of peas) yet most fragile as well as silver to dark gray, firm, heavy, separated. The caviar becomes extremely oil when these eggs burst.
- Sterlet - the second most prized eggs which are smaller and golden in color
- Ossetra - the third most prized eggs are smaller than the sterlet, more evenly sized, golden yellow to brown in color, and quite oily
- Sevruga - the least expensive of the eggs (but still not pocket change at ~$65 per ounce), these are very small and light to dark grey clouded in color
To officially be considered caviar, the roe must come from fish from the Acipenseridae family. There are several other caviar substitutes out there from whitefish, salmon, etc, but those are not the real deal. When enjoying caviar as a spread or garnish, the texture may be a little shocking as they are really just small, oil-filled bubbles that burst in your mouth. It will be salty and briny without a doubt, but it will also sate your innate desire for savory, saltiness.
When serving, make sure to keep it refrigerated until needed as it is extremely perishable. To enjoy it best, try not to cloud your palate with other flavors that may overtake its own. Try it with soft scrambled eggs, potato, creme fraiche, or even granita. Even having it on some small crostinis with no other dressings would be fine. Just try to avoid lemon and enjoy. If you have any with you, I'm just a message away and would love to indulge with you!