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What You Know About Caviar in (step by step)

Caviar is roe or eggs from the sturgeon family of fish. It’s considered a delicacy, often eaten raw as an appetizer, with some caviar fetching a high price. Historically, the most prized types of caviar came from the Caspian and Black Seas, but due to overfishing, caviar is now produced around the world.

Caviar vs. Fish Roe

All female fish lay eggs to reproduce; therefore they all have roe. Not all fish roe is suitable for human consumption, however, and only sturgeon roe is considered caviar.

Sturgeon are saltwater anatropous fish (meaning they move from salt to freshwater to spawn). They are native to the Black and Caspian Seas between Europe and Asia as well as the Pacific Northwest and southern Atlantic coasts of the United States. Sturgeon can grow to more Caviar than 3,000 pounds but typically average about 60 pounds.

Other popular types of fish roe like salmon, trout, and flying fish are well loved and popular for topping sushi rolls, toast, and more. However, they are not considered caviar. Some types of fish roe have similar flavor and textural characteristics to caviar and can be used as a substitute.

Varieties

The most-prized caviar comes from the beluga and sutra varieties of sturgeon. Beluga caviar is among the largest, rarest, and most expensive of all. It typically can’t be found in the U.S. due to overfishing and government regulations, but Kaluga is a variety that’s available stateside with a similar delicate buttery flavor and texture. Osetra tends to have a nutty, briny, fresh flavor, while sevruga has a strong flavor and snaps and pops in your mouth. Sterlet is similar to sevruga and is often mislabeled as such. Hackleback comes from a sturgeon in the Mississippi River and has a mild, nutty flavor. A number of other caviar varieties exist with differing flavors, textures, and colors.

In addition to the type of fish, caviar is graded based on the size, texture, and flavor of the eggs. There are two main grades of caviar:

Grade 1: Firm, large eggs that are intact (more expensive).

Grade 2: Less delicate and less perfectly formed eggs (less expensive).

Beluga caviar is also rated by color. 000 is light or silver-gray, 00 is medium gray, and 0 is gray. The lighter color is prized more but doesn’t greatly affect the flavor. The rarest shade of caviar is golden caviar. It’s a pale off-yellow color that’s believed to be found in only one in 1,000 osetra sturgeon.

Caviar can be unpasteurized or pasteurized. A lack of pasteurization increases the risk of foodborne illness and decreases the shelf life, but fresh, completely raw caviar is prized for its superior flavor and texture.

How to Use Caviar

For purists, it’s best to eat caviar alone or with minimal accompaniments. The raw dish is classically served on a bed of ice with a caviar spoon, traditionally made of pearl or bone. Silver or steel utensils can impart a metallic flavor to caviar and are therefore avoided. Caviar can be consumed right off a spoon or served with crackers, toast points, or blini (small crepes or pancakes).

Caviar can also be added as a finishing touch to appetizers and pasta but is not usually cooked. Instead, it is added as a garnish to preserve its flavor.

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Coffin Packed With Illegal Caviar Discovered During Traffic Stop in Russia

MOSCOW — A speeding hearse pulled over by Russian police was found with more than half-a-ton of illegal black caviar stashed in the coffin it was carrying

The hearse was stopped Monday night on a highway near Khabarovsk, a city close to the Chinese border, police said in a statement. When officers inspected the vehicle, which was a converted minibus, they found pots filled with beluga caviar hidden under branches that are used in Russian funeral rituals.

Police then cracked open the coffin, which was wrapped in pink frilly cloth, and discovered 550 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of caviar.

“On further examination of the bus, it became clear that there was no deceased body in the back,” the police statement read. “But in the coffin, police officers uncovered sealed containers of caviar wrapped in thermal packaging.

The two men driving the hearse, which belongs to a local funeral home, claimed they were unaware the coffin was full of fish eggs. They told police a man they did not know had asked them to pick up the body of a recently deceased woman and transport it to a local morgue. They said the man had promised to pay them $400. Police are now investigating.

It is illegal in Russia to privately harvest or sell black caviar, which comes from the endangered sturgeon fish. Russia imposed the ban in 2002 in an effort to halt overfishing. Only state-owned farms are now permitted to sell the delicacy. For a time, the ban spawned a lucrative black market, supported by widespread poaching. Although farming has now improved stocks, black caviar is still very expensive, going for as much as $1,000 per kilo in London.

Ramin Rohgar, who runs Imperial Caviar, a specialist caviar supplier in London, said the price on the legal market for one variety of black roe produced near Khabarovsk could be as much as $400 per kilo. At that price the smuggled haul could be worth as much as $200,000.

That’s a huge amount of caviar,” said Rohgar. He doubted it was possible to acquire so much caviar from poaching, noting that it was most likely stolen from legitimate Chinese caviar farms, some of which are located close to the border.

“I don’t think it’s logistically impossible. You’d need a factory,” Rohgar said. “All it can be is that they’ve raided some warehouse.

The black market in caviar has shrunk since its heyday a decade ago, when it was compared to the drugs trade, and much of the poaching that threatened the extinction of the sturgeon has now been stamped out. Yet smuggling continues, with Russian police in the far east periodically seizing lorry-loads of caviar.

Russia’s undertaker industry is also not known for its transparency. Officials estimate as much as 60 percent of burials are done by unlicensed and amateur undertakers, who sometimes bribe ambulance workers to give them a head start on reaching the deceased