Genuine caviar comes from the sturgeon, a family of primeval bony fish at home primarily in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere. The sturgeon species that are most frequently used for caviar production are the Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii), the Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii), the beluga sturgeon (European sturgeon or Huso huso) and the sterlet sturgeon (Acipenser ruthenus). Moreover, there are a large number of crossbreeds that offer various advantages in the taste of the caviar and in breeding.
The Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii)
Siberian sturgeon have the elongated build typical of this species of fish with a pointed snout, a dorsal fin sitting far to the rear and five rows of bony plates along the trunk. Normally, the fish reach a length of 80 to 140 cm and an average weight of approximately 65 kg. Their colour ranges from light grey to dark brown on the back and sides, while the stomach is white to yellowish. Siberian sturgeon spawn every three to five years and can reach an age of 60 years.
The Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii)
The Russian sturgeon reaches a length of 230 - 240 cm and can weigh up to 110 kg. It has an elongated and spindle-shaped build, while 4 non-fringed barbels sit on the lower side of its relatively short and stump snout. On the snout there are sensory organs (electroreceptors), with which even weak electrical fields and subtle temperature differences can be perceived and thus prey can be located. The Russian sturgeon can reach an age of up to 50 years.
The beluga sturgeon (European sturgeon or Huso huso)
Compared to other sturgeon, the body is bulky and compact. The animals are dark to blue-grey with a lighter-coloured stomach and osseous plates. The length of adult belugas is mostly between 185 and 250 cm. However, beluga sturgeon can become significantly bigger, although the length data in literature fluctuates. In most cases, a length of five to six metres and a weight of one tonne are described. The age of animals of four metres in length was determined as approximately 100 years.
The sterlet sturgeon (Acipenser ruthenus)
At a length of approximately 40 to 100 cm and a weight of 16 kg, the sterlet is among the smaller sturgeon species. It possesses a slim, elongated and spindle-shaped body, with a down-turned, protractile mouth. Its stomach is white to yellowish with an orange-red shimmer; its basic colour is dark grey to dark brown. Sterlet sturgeon reach adult age in seven to nine years.
Caviar is one of the most expensive and sought-after delicacies in the world and should therefore be consumed and enjoyed correctly. To preserve the freshness, taste and consistency of the caviar, it is recommended that it be stored at temperatures of minus to plus two degrees Celsius. Since the delicate roe is extremely sensitive, consume an open glass in two to three days!
The caviar should be taken out of the fridge and opened immediately before serving. It develops its flavour in approximately five minutes at room temperature. Thereafter, it should be served well cooled in a glass bowl on ice.
Caviar has always been considered a royal speciality and is ideally consumed in small quantities so that the taste buds can take in the full flavour. Ideally, caviar is eaten with a spoon made of horn or mother-of-pearl. Metal or silver spoons distort the exquisite taste.
For the pure taste, place a small amount of caviar on the back of your hand between the thumb and the index finger. Without touching your hand with your lips, put the caviar in your mouth and press it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue until the eggs crack, providing for a firework of taste.
Caviar can also be consumed with other ingredients, as long as these do not have too strong a taste of their own. Potatoes, cooked eggs, garlic and crème fraîche are ideal thanks to their creamy and mild flavour. Traditionally, caviar is consumed with blinis, small Russian pancakes made of buckwheat. Toast, cracker or crispbread provide for an additional, crispy component.
Caviar is best enjoyed with champagne, vodka or fine white wines. These harmonise with the delicacy and bring its taste duly to bear.