Are you interested in delivering the extraordinary and flavorful world of caviar directly to your taste buds? Perhaps you intend to elevate party hors d'oeuvres and impress your guests. Or, maybe you have seen caviar served in elegant films, or heard that eating caviar can be an interesting experience and are curious to try this centuries-old delicacy.
Whatever your reason, caviar is a gift from the sea that should be tried and treasured by everyone, not just royalty! The first thing to learn when starting to develop a palate for caviar is that you should always obtain true sturgeon caviar. Only sturgeon species produce true caviar.
What is Sturgeon?
Sturgeon, is the common name for the 27 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae, all of the species of fish are native to the temperate waters of the Northern Hemisphere. While sturgeon are found mainly in the Caspian Sea, they are also found in the Black Sea, parts of the Pacific Northwest, the South Atlantic regions of North America, and in big European lakes and rivers. Although sturgeon is a saltwater fish, they lay eggs in freshwater, which is a piece of modern sustainable farming efforts.
What is Caviar?
Caviar identifies the matured eggs of the fish sturgeon. Only sturgeon eggs qualify as caviar! Of course, when researching the right product(s) you may come across the word “roe.” Roe is a more general word that means fish eggs, but roe and caviar are definitely not interchangeable.
Roe refers to any and all fish eggs, including those from salmon, trout, flying fish, and others. Sturgeon fish eggs are uniquely identified as caviar. “Red caviar” is not caviar - it is salmon egg, and should more correctly be called salmon roe.
How did Caviar Become a Delicacy?
You might be surprised to learn that sturgeon caviar has not always been a luxury food. It is rumored that before Ivan the Terrible fell in love with caviar, Russian fishermen (as early as the 12th century) would serve it with porridge or eat it by the bowl. United States fish roe has also not always been an expensive delicacy.
The American caviar industry began in the late 1800s when, along the Delaware River or the Columbia River, sturgeon eggs were harvested quickly and abundantly. By the turn of the 20th Century, caviar had become so commonplace in the New York area that it was colloquially named Albany-beef. At that time, the United States could produce enough of its own caviar to sustain demand.
Today, most of the world’s caviar comes from sturgeon fish farms in fifty or more nations, including the United States, France, Italy, and Iran. China is poised to be the world’s largest producer. Contributing to caviar’s status as a luxury food over the years has been the increase in consumption combined with the scarcity of wild sturgeon caviar due to habitat destruction and life cycle limitations.
Habitat and lifecycle restrictions are not as important in other fish species. These circumstances lead to an increase in the number of “caviar” alternatives -- imposters really -- an even greater need to distinguish between the high-quality treat that is true caviar and fake caviar. We at Imperia Caviar are committed to producing true sturgeon caviar as an accessible luxury for everyone to enjoy without causing harm to the environment. Our caviar is produced through sustainable, eco-friendly, nearly wild farm environments.
Grades of Caviar
Caviar is usually divided into two grades, determined by professionals trained in grading quality, to alert consumers of certain aspects of the caviar. The grade is determined by factors including egg color, size, clarity, taste, aroma, and firmness. Usually, Grade 1 caviar includes the firmest, largest, most intact eggs with fine color and flavor. Grade 2 caviar, while also tasty and decadent, consists of less delicate and less uniform eggs. Imperia Caviar believes in providing the most beautifully cured caviar and sells only the best, A+ Grade 1 caviar.
Types of Sturgeon Caviar
There are many sturgeon caviar varieties. Each type has an interesting taste, color and texture variances. For example, there are Siberian sturgeons, Hackleback, White sturgeon and others. That said, not all caviars are made equals there are only a few types of the best sturgeon caviar that are legally sold in the USA today including Osetra caviar, Sevruga caviar, and Kaluga Caviar. They vary in, among other things, size, color, and flavor.
These differences, as well as cost and availability, play a large role in determining value and prestige. Another is the Almas Beluga caviar, which arises from a rare form of Iranian Beluga. This Persian albino sturgeon is usually between 60-100 years old and is the most expensive and exclusive type of caviar. In fact, Almas holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive caviar at a cost of $34,500 per kilogram!
Beluga Sturgeon. Originating from the Caspian Sea, Beluga is often considered to be the most luxurious caviar in the world and is generally most expensive of all accessible caviar varieties. Reaching lengths of up to 24 feet (7 meters) and weighing up to 3,000 pounds (1500 kilos), Beluga are massive.
While Beluga sturgeon may live to be over 100 years old, and produce several hundreds of pounds of eggs, they are also critically endangered. This rarity in availability combined with being one of the most reputationally desirable caviars in the world contributes to the exorbitant cost range of $5,000 to $10,000 per kilogram. With large, pearlescent eggs of light glistening gray, Beluga has a smooth, buttery texture, and rich, subtle flavor that melts in your mouth. It is, however, illegal to import Beluga caviar to the United States.
Osetra Sturgeon. Osetra (also called Osciètre) Sturgeon caviar is a flavorful winning analog to Beluga. The Royal Osetra is equally considered one of the best caviars in the world. Osetra eggs are smaller than Beluga caviar and come in fine, medium-sized grains consistent in size. Ranging in color from golden to brown, Osetra caviar has a nutty, rich flavor. The lighter the eggs, the older the sturgeon. Thus a lighter, fine grain is of a richer flavor.
Sevruga Sturgeon. Also known as starry sturgeon, Sevruga are native to the Caspian and Black Seas. They can also be found in the Aegean and Azov Seas. Due to quicker reproduction rates compared to Beluga and Osetra, Sevruga has higher availability. Sevruga’s small and delicate gray to black eggs have a crunchy texture that pops with intense flavor. They are also the smallest-egg-producing Sturgeon, and their flavor profile begins with a distinct marine flavor, complemented by notes of nut and cream.
Kaluga Sturgeon. Known colloquially as the “river beluga” Kaluga is a farm-raised type of sturgeon caviar. This approach allows for greater sustainability of the species and stricter controls for uniformity and quality. The taste of Kaluga is similar to Beluga, offering a creamy, smooth, and nearly buttery texture. In addition to sharing the Beluga’s exquisite taste and texture characteristics, Kaluga caviar can be eaten guilt-free knowing that the delicacy you are consuming is eco-friendly and sustainable.
How Can I Find Sturgeon Caviar?
Some people shy away from trying caviar because of cost. Perhaps you want to try caviar, but your local supermarket does not sell or does not offer a good, fresh selection. Alternatively, you may be put off by caviar’s fancy reputation or could think the price tag is well outside any affordable range.
While it is true that the expense and availability of caviar are driven by supply and demand relationships, there are other factors. Imperia Caviar is at the forefront of the culinary movement to make delicious delicacies affordable. Our mission is to make delicious, sustainable and ethical caviar accessible to many at a fraction of usual retail cost. We also intend uncompromising service.
How Does Imperia Caviar Do It?
We grow our own ethically produced supply of caviar and sell direct-to-consumer through this site. That gives you access to the freshest, top-quality caviars without paying layers of middlemen. Imperia Caviar offers two gorgeous sturgeon caviar – Royal Osetra and Kaluga Hybrid Reserve.
The Royal Osetra, with its rich, bold sea flavors, goes well with heavy creams, sauces, and meat dishes, amongst a variety of other dishes. The Kaluga Hybrid Reserve, which is a union between the Kaluga and Shassetra sturgeons, provides for an exceptional initial flavor rush full of floral and fruity notes, followed by bold bursts of flavor from each grain.
The Kaluga Hybrid is also quite beautiful, with a deep and shimmery dark amber color with flecks of jade. Both the Osetra and the Kaluga Hybrid are available for order in multiple sizing options including 100 grams, 250 grams, and 1680 grams, or smaller packages of 5 tins with 30 grams each, or 3 tins with 50 grams each.
They also come in gift sets so that you can share this exciting experience of culinary excellence with friends and family. Complete with a gift bag containing either a tin of Royal Osetra or Kaluga Hybrid Reserve, a tin opener, and a mother of pearl spoon, gift sets come in 50 gram and 30-gram options ranging in quantity from 3 to 15 sets, and in between.
So, now that you are thoughtfully prepared, it is time to get out your mother of pearl spoon and start tasting! May we respectfully suggest you try Imperia Caviar on a blini topped with creme fraiche? Welcome to the family!