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Caviar – A Delicacy Enjoyed in Russia

Russian caviar is known the world over and has been recognized as one of Russia’s most popular and bet known exports. While this expensive delicacy may not have originated in here, it has become synonymous with Russia.

But what exactly is Russian caviar? You may be surprised to learn that caviar is basically salted and processed ripe sturgeon eggs. For centuries now, certain cultures have drawn on the egg masses, or roe, of these fish as a food source.

This unusual fish is a bottom feeder which uses its wedge-shaped snout to stir up the bottom of rivers, lakes and oceanic shelves. Their sensitive barbells then detect small crustaceans, fish and shells on which they are able to feed. Despite their sometimes immense size, the sturgeon fish are unable to consume larger prey as they have no teeth.

There are many kinds of caviar. Modern Black Caviar is probably the most common and it is sourced from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. However, the Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga varieties are less known as they are rarer and more expensive and the Modern Black Caviar. The importation of Beluga Caviar which is from the Beluga Sturgeon has now been banned in the United States since these long-living but slow growing fish are an endangered species.

The roe of older Beluga Sturgeon are lighter in color and have higher value. The roe of the Ossetra Sturgeon may be brown, green-gray, jet black, dark blue, clear or white. The Ossetra Sturgeon has a distinct nutty taste and is slightly smaller in size than Beluga caviar. Sevruga Caviar is also an elite variety of caviar which is only slightly cheaper and smaller than the Beluga and Ossetra varieties. The golden-colored Sterlet caviar was once consumed principally by czars and emperors, but this variety of caviar is now seldom sold commercially.

Because of the high cost of caviar, it is generally eaten as a garnish or a spread. The more lightly salted the caviar, the better quality. In recent years consumers have seen the introduction of caviar-quality roe alternatives from other fish species such as Whitefish and North Atlantic salmon. While this is not true caviar, it is a popular and more common alternative that most non-Russians are more likely to be acquainted with.

Caviar must be handled with the utmost care as it cannot be packaged or served with metal equipment as this imparts an unfavorable metallic taste to the roe; so ivory, pearl, gold, wooden or plastic spoons are usually used to serve it. While caviar is still considered an exclusive cuisine of the rich and famous across the globe, many have chosen not to eat it because harvesting the roe requires the clubbing or stunning of live fish and the removal of the fishes ovaries. However, new methods of harvesting roe which enable the fish to continue living and producing are in the experimental phase. With careful regulation and care taken to treat the sturgeons humanely, Caviar will continue being a popular and universally recognized luxury.


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