12 Things You Never Knew About Caviar

Katie Sweeney

You may have woken up this morning and thought it was just another Saturday in July, but surprise! It’s not. Today is National Caviar Day. Since I'm a huge fan of the pricey black pearls, let's celebrate with some lesser-known caviar fun facts. Quite simply, caviar is processed and salted fish eggs. The word roe refers to the mass of eggs that are contained in the fertile female fish. Caviar has forever been a luxury food item enjoyed by royalty and often paired with chilled vodka or champagne. Chances are you probably know all of this, so let’s move on to the things you never knew about caviar.

  1. Although the term is used loosely, true caviar comes from one of three sturgeon breeds that live in the Caspian Sea (Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga).
  2. The most expensive caviar in the world is from a 100-year-old Iranian beluga sturgeon. It costs roughly $1000 per ounce.
  3. The word caviar dates back to 1591 and is derived from a Turkish term khavyar.
  4. Caviar is sustainable. Traditionally caviar came from wild sturgeon, but today most of the caviar that is available in the United States is farm-raised and sustainable.
  5. Like wine, the taste of caviar is affected by its terroir, or the environment in which it lives and grows. Everything from the type of algae that's in the water to the salinity level of the water (salt vs. fresh) that the sturgeon swims in can change the taste of the caviar.
  6. The best way to eat caviar is off of your hand. Make a fist, then spoon a dollop of caviar onto the indentation that forms in between your thumb and pointer finger. Always use a pearl, glass, or bone spoon when handling caviar; metal spoons give the eggs an unpleasant metallic flavor.
  7. Caviar purists love caviar without fancy accoutrements. The sour cream, chives, crème fraîche, blini, and onion aren’t necessary and often mask the delicate briny flavor of the caviar. Before modern refrigeration, people would consume caviar with these accompaniments to mask the strong fish smell.
  8. Butter is a complementary ingredient. A dab of butter will give the caviar a scrumptious balance of richness, salt, and brine. Yes, I’m speaking from experience!
  9. Five is the key word when it comes to caviar’s freshness. An open jar of caviar will last five days, while a closed tin will last for five weeks.
  10. One spoonful of caviar supplies a daily dose of vitamin B12. It’s also high in protein and a great source of omega-3s, vitamin D, and iron.
  11. Due to overfishing, the U.S. banned beluga sturgeon in 2005, and it is now on the endangered species list.  
  12. The sturgeon is normally killed when the eggs are harvested, but the California Caviar Company has partnered with Angela Köhler, one of Europe’s leading marine biologists, to develop Vivace, the world’s first-ever caviar harvested using a no-kill method of egg extraction. The eggs are gently massaged out of the mature female sturgeon while she’s still alive. Pretty cool, right?

Are you indulging in caviar today? Be sure you use mother-of-pearl caviar spoons, like these ones from Dean & DeLuca.

What has been your experience with caviar?

Explore: Caviar, luxury, Seafood

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