What Is The Most Expensive Caviar In The World?
What Is Caviar?
Have you ever tasted expensive caviar? This delicacy is regarded as one of the world’s finest and most expensive, a gourmet treat that is eaten by the rich and famous. But what is caviar and what is all the fuss about?
It is basically fish eggs; the unfertilised roe of the sturgeon fish to be exact. Yes, all that association with wealth, luxury and glamour is down to fish eggs. And there is also very little preparation needed for before serving caviar, as it is simply sieved and lightly salted.
According to tradition, it is only the roe harvested from wild female sturgeon caught in the Caspian and Black Seas that can be called caviar, and these are known as beluga, ossetra, sterlet and sevruga caviars.
Historically these caviars were reserved for consumption only by the royal families of Russia, Eastern Europe and Iran. These days we are a lot more fortunate, because anyone who is rich enough to be able to afford it can consume expensive caviar. So what is the most expensive caviar in the world and why is this gourmet delicacy so expensive?
Have you ever eaten expensive caviar?
What Makes Caviar So Expensive?
Like most things in life, part of what makes caviar expensive is its rarity. The sturgeon that produce caviar only live in the Caspian and Black Seas and their eggs are only harvested during the brief breeding season when the female sturgeon are ready to migrate up the rivers to lay their eggs.
Only unfertilised eggs are used for caviar, so the fish cannot be allowed to spawn. It is the beluga caviar that is the rarest of them all, and therefore the most expensive to buy. Wild beluga sturgeons are found in the Caspian Sea, and these days are harvested mainly by Iran and Azerbaijan. Beluga sturgeon caught in the southern waters of the Caspian Sea by Iranian fisherman are the most valued as this part of the sea is the least polluted.
What makes beluga caviar so specially prized is the large size of the fish eggs, their soft texture and their colour, which can go through silvery-gray to glistening, darkest black. Beluga caviar is also highly appreciated for its very subtle, delicate flavour.
The lighter coloured beluga caviar is the more valuable, as this light colour indicates that it came from an older female sturgeon, and you can expect to pay anything between $500 and $5000 per kilo. These light coloured beluga caviars are often labelled ‘royal’ or ‘imperial’.
The sterlet caviar is the next most expensive to buy and is a beautiful pale golden colour. Sterlet sturgeons are fairly small and they are now very rare, which is reflected in the price of their roe. Then comes the ossetra (or osetra) caviar, which is the caviar thought to have the most variety in colour, size and flavour.
This is believed to be due to the fact that the ossetra sturgeon is a bottom feeder and so the eggs absorb the flavours of all the different foods that the fish has been eating. The least expensive of the caviars is the sevruga caviar which is a smaller, gray coloured fish roe that generally has a stronger flavour than the other caviars.
How Do You Serve Caviar?
Because it is such an expensive delicacy, great care must be taken when you are serving it. The gourmets say that the finest caviar should be served with no accompaniments as nothing should be allowed to interfere with your enjoyment of the exquisite flavour.
It cannot be frozen as this causes the eggs to explode, but should be stored in the coldest part of your fridge as it is extremely perishable. To keep your caviar cool enough, it should be served in a non-metallic bowl that has been placed in a larger bowl filled with ice. As serving caviar in a metal or silver bowl can give it a metallic taste due to oxidation of the metal, always use a neutral material such as plastic, wood, bone or glass for your serving bowls and utensils.
If you are looking to serve your caviar in the traditional manner, you will need a golden bowl to serve it in and mother-of-pearl spoons and forks to eat it with. Fine caviar is at its best when served on plain bits of toast, blinis or unsalted crackers.
It is also commonly served with lemon wedges, sour cream, minced onion or chopped hard-boiled eggs, but the purists would say that these are only being served to mask the flavour of a lower quality caviar. So what would you drink with your expensive caviar? Well, very cold, very dry champagne makes a great beverage to accompany this fine delicacy as is the finest, very cold vodka.
Is Caviar Production Sustainable?
One of the main reasons why caviar is so costly is its rarity. There are several reasons for this, including pollution in the sea and overfishing. The most expensive caviar comes from the older, bigger female sturgeon. Unfortunately, sturgeon roe is not harvested from a live fish that is then returned to the sea.
The female sturgeon is caught when she is ready to migrate and lay her eggs upstream in one of the rivers. When the fish is caught it is knocked out by clubbing it in the head, and then the fish eggs are removed while the sturgeon is still alive as if they are removed after death a chemical is released that causes the flavour of the fish to become bitter.
The rest of the sturgeon is then sold on to be eaten. The beluga sturgeon is probably the scarcest, even though lots of controls have been put in place to try to prevent overfishing. The irony is that it is the beluga’s scarcity that is making the beluga caviar so desirable and therefore contributing to even more overfishing.
There is a big market in illegally poached beluga caviar that sells for a fraction of the price of legally produced caviar, but if you are at all concerned with the preservation of the wild sturgeon as a species, please do not encourage this trade by buying any.
Are There Any Caviar Substitutes?
Luckily there are many caviar substitutes on the market today. So if you are looking to impress by serving caviar at your party, you do not need to splash your cash or buy beluga caviar on the black market. Fish roe from many other species is harvested and marketed as caviar, such as whitefish, salmon, trout, steelhead, lumpfish and other species of sturgeon. There is also something called pressed caviar which is produced from damaged or fragile roe or can be a combination of several different fish eggs that has been specially treated, pressed and salted.
Where To Find Caviar
Whether you are looking to purchase the finest beluga caviar or some lumpfish or salmon caviar for a special drinks party or dinner, one of the best and easiest places to shop for it is online. Amazon has a great range of caviars to choose from, ranging from the most expensive caviar to more modestly priced luxury delicacies. So go online today and treat yourself a little piece of glamour and true luxury – caviar!
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Ossetra Caviar image Charles Haynes Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic