Where Does Caviar Come From? Find Out Everything About the Beloved Delicacy

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Caviar is a luxurious treat that comes on top of many different dishes, but where caviar comes from remains a mystery to some. Caviar is often a sign of a fancy dish or even a fancy restaurant, but truth be told, there are actually some lower-grade caviars that aren’t as fancy as you may think. 

So, where does caviar come from, and what else do you need to know about this delicious and delectable dish?

A Brief History of Caviar

Once upon a time, caviar was reserved strictly for people in high up places, like the King and those who served him. But in the nineteenth century, caviar was casually served for free… for some reason. So, what happened between then and now, and why did caviar become something that could just be handed out for free? 

Caviar comes from sturgeon, which were abundant in rivers in the United States at that time. However, because it became so popular in the nineteenth century, sturgeon were soon overfished, leaving the population scarce and caviar rare again. 

In the present day, 18 out of the 27 total species of sturgeon are endangered species because of overfishing and caviar harvesting. 

Caviar Harvesting

Harvesting the eggs from a female sturgeon is a complex process, one that requires a lot of timing. The eggs are at their most flavorful three days before the fish is ready to spawn. If the eggs are harvested too close to the “due date,” they may be gooey and mushy. 

Fish eggs are extremely fragile, so the harvesting process is delicate. The egg sacks are opened and rubbed across mesh screens in order to separate the eggs from the membrane of the sacks. 

Once the eggs are drained and salted, they’re packed away into airtight containers. They’re good for two to four weeks after being sealed. 

Caviar and Grading

All caviar is different because of how the harvesting process works. Caviar is graded when it is harvested by a caviar expert. It’s graded based on the following: 

  • Color
  • Size
  • Separation 
  • Fragrance
  • Uniformity 
  • Lucidity
  • Firmness
  • Taste
  • Maturity

Depending on all of those factors, the caviar expert will award the caviar with a grade. For caviar to receive the highest grade (Grade 1 or Grade A), it must satisfy the judge in all categories. If it doesn’t satisfy in every category, it will receive a Grade 2 score. 

Types of Caviar

There are different types of caviar, based on the type of sturgeon that the caviar comes from. The different types of caviar include: 

  • Osetra
  • Sevruga
  • Kaluga
  • Beluga

Beluga caviar comes from a very endangered species of fish, making the caviar incredibly expensive. It’s also illegal to import it into the United States because of the fish’s status on the endangered species list. 

How to Eat Caviar

There are many different ways to enjoy caviar, and it depends on the person. Some people like to use caviar on a cracker, while some enjoy caviar all by itself. Caviar should always be refrigerated and served chilled. 

While many say you should only eat caviar on a plain cracker or by itself to really bring out the flavors of the fish eggs, you can also eat it with creme fraiche, lemon wedges, hard-cooked eggs, mini potatoes, minced onions, blinis, or toasted points that are lightly coated in salted butter. 

However, if you’re trying caviar for the first time, or you’re truly trying to experience caviar for what it’s worth, most people will recommend eating it plain or with unsalted crackers for the best experience. 

That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the caviar for what it is without the interference of any other flavors.

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