A Guide to Russian Caviar

 By: Gavin Ashford
Russian caviar is among the most famous varieties of caviar. The name beluga is synonymous with wealth and luxury and is widely considered the premium variety of caviar for the size, taste and fragrance of its roe. Each pearl as they are sometimes called, is generally the size of a small pea, although the specific size is determined by the type and size of the sturgeon it is harvested from. Each pearl has a prominent dark spot, called an eye, which is the actual egg itself. The beluga sturgeon is most commonly harvested in the Caspian Sea, but there is a long-running debate as to whether the Black Sea variety is tastier, a debate that aficionados are in no hurry to resolve.

Not as famous, but equally as prized by connoisseurs are the Sevruga and Osetra varieties of Russian caviar. Sevruga has the strongest flavor of all Russian caviars and the eggs are smaller than other premium varieties, resulting in a mildly saltier taste as more eggs burst per bite than Beluga. Many caviar connoisoirs will recommend that you buy Sevruga caviar first when buying Russian caviar for the first time. Osetra is a unique golden brown color and is considered second in grade only to Beluga. The roe are only slightly smaller than beluga and have a flavor often described as nutty. The kaluga is a lesser known variety of premium Russian caviar, harvested from sturgeon in the Amur, a river in Siberia. The roe of this variety are inky black and have an earthy tang common to freshwater caviar.

The higher grades of Russian caviar are usually sold as "malassol", a Russian term literally translated as "little salt." This term signifies the high quality of the roe, as lesser quality roe are processed with more than the five percent of salt added to malassol caviar. The less salt added, the better the caviar, although this does make the roe more perishable.

Another Russian term important to know when purchasing caviar is "payusnaya" which means pressed. Any roe that are damaged or weakened during the filtering process are set aside for pressing, resulting in a caviar product that is closer to a fruit jam. Pressed caviar has an intense flavor and is a popular product with chefs who want to add caviar flavor to their culinary creations without paying premium prices.

Once reserved for the Czar's table, you can now buy Osetra caviar, sevruga caviar, beluga caviar, or any other Russian caviar online by anyone with the desire to sample this world famous gourmet delight.
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