Caviar Deconstructed

Caviar Deconstructed

Caviar Deconstructed

Simply put, caviar is fish roe blended with salt. Of course, in reality, caviar is anything but simple. There are so many kinds and qualities of caviar, it’s hard to keep them straight. But that’s what we’re here for – keep reading, and by Valentine’s Day you’ll be ready to pick out the right caviar for your romantic rendezvous.

All caviar, whether sturgeon or other roe, is made in a similar manner.  After the fish are caught, their egg sacs are removed and a caviar master gently rinses the roe through a fine sieve.  The master then inspects the eggs to determine how much salt should be added. The higher the quality of the egg, the less salt used. The best caviar is malossol, containing 3-6% salt.  After the fine salt is blended into the roe, any excess liquid is drained off and the eggs are packed immediately into air-free tins.  The whole process takes only a few minutes from the time the fish hit the docks.

When selecting caviar, look for a light aroma reminiscent of clean ocean air and a firm, but not brittle, texture that resists slight pressure. Keep your caviar as cold as possible without freezing it, and once opened, caviar should be enjoyed immediately. Traditional accompaniments include chopped egg, chives, onion, capers, lemon & crème fraiche. Very cold vodka, brut champagne or dry white wine also compliment caviar quite well. Below is a brief lesson on the varieties of this delicacy:

Beluga is considered the best and certainly is the most expensive. It comes from beluga sturgeon from the Caspian Sea and is known for its soft, very large eggs, ranging in color from a pale silver-gray to black. 

Osetra is the next in line. The roe of the Russian sturgeon, also from the Caspian Sea, Osetra caviar is a medium sized egg with a brownish to yellow-gold color with a distinctive flavor that is somewhat nutty and slightly reminiscent of olives. 

Sevruga caviar, from the smallest and most prolific of the Caspian Sea‘s sturgeon, is small and dark brown to black in color. 

North American Sturgeon caviar is small, black, and deliciously similar to Sevruga. It comes from hackleback or paddlefish sturgeon from the Mississippi River.

Whitefish Roe is a very small-egg caviar from the Great Lakes with a firm, almost crunchy texture. 

Salmon Roe, one of the most well known non-sturgeon caviars, is large, with an orange to reddish-pink hue.

Tobiko, one of our new favorites, is a very small, loose, salted caviar that usually has an orange or pale yellow tint and offers the slightest hint of brininess. The crunchiness and slightly sweet taste of this roe works well as a garnish for hors d’oeuvres, with sushi, and to provide color and texture to sauces and dressings. Unlike sturgeon caviar, it does not change texture in a liquid emulsion or when heated.

With so many wonderful options, the only true way to choose a caviar is to decide which taste and texture you like best. So treat yourself today!  


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Published on February 9, 2006

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