Caviar. Types and alternatives.

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Today, caviar is identified as salted fish eggs. However, gourmet caviar, which is the true caviar, comes from the sturgeon. The different sturgeon species include Beluga, Sevruga, and Osetra. Unfortunately, the sturgeon has become an endangered species. Therefore, many have resorted to sturgeon farming and fish for this unique gourmet treat.
There are different caviar types, determined by the fish from which it is obtained. Here is a list of the three true types of caviar and all the available alternatives.

Beluga Caviar

It is the most expensive caviar worldwide second only to Sterlet which is exceedingly rare. Less than 100 Beluga sturgeons are caught annually. It has very large roe with colors ranging from pale gray and black. The flavor is smooth and buttery.

Osetra Caviar

On product labels, it can be spelled in three other ways as Asestra, Ossetra or Oscietra. The roe is medium sized. The color ranges from dark brown, light gray and in some cases, golden brown. Osetra caviar has a fruit-like nutty flavor which makes many prefer it to Beluga.

Sevruga Caviar

Of the three sturgeon species, the Sevruga produces the smallest beads but in plenty. The Sevruga Caviar is the cheapest of the three. Its color varies from black to light gray. It possesses the buttery flavor of the beluga but is more intense and saltier. Its rich flavor makes it more valuable.

Besides these three main caviar types, there are other cheaper alternatives.

Farmed Caviar
The United States once led the world’s caviar industry producing nearly 90% of the caviar worldwide. Caviar was a typical delicacy readily available in all food stores and restaurants. As the supply dwindled, like other countries, the US began sturgeon farming. The initiative aimed at saving the industry and preserving the sturgeons from extinction.
The sturgeon species kept in these farms are Baerii, Osetra, and White Sturgeon. They are kept in artesian-well waters where their food is toxic free. Also, no predators are endangering their existence. Farmed caviar is a cheap, high-quality alternative for caviar lovers.
American Caviar
Some have been misled to think that the name refers to caviar from America. However, since the true caviar comes from the Caspian Sea sturgeons, American caviar is from American lake sturgeons. Its roe is of the same quality as of the sevruga caviar.
Paddlefish caviar
Sometimes marketed as American caviar, this type of caviar has the quality of the beluga caviar. But the roe is clear with glossy beads. It is a better replacement of the Beluga caviar.

Salmon Caviar

Salmon Caviar is the favorite caviar alternative for sushi chefs all over the world. Its color ranges from golden-orange to reddish orange. The roe varies from medium sizes to sizes larger than the Beluga’s. It is juicy with an intense salmon flavor. Salmon caviar is considered as kosher food because the salmon fish has scales.

Hackleback caviar

It offers a combination of all the three main caviar types. It has the buttery taste of a Beluga, the nutty, fruity flavor of the Osetra and is glossy black as the Sevruga. Its medium sized roe is also rich and firm.

Whitefish caviar

It is another favorite of chefs. It is small sized with a crunchy taste. Whitefish roe can be infused with truffle, saffron and ginger flavors for enhanced taste. It is also considered a kosher food as the white fish belongs to the salmon family.

Lumpfish caviar

It is one of the caviar types that are pasteurized. It also ranks among the cheapest caviars. The fine-grained crunchy roe is ideal for garnishes and appetizers due to its intense brinery flavor. It exists in red and black colors.

Bowfin Caviar

Commonly known as Choupique, it Cajun name, bowfin caviar is another good beluga substitute though the roe is smaller than Beluga. It has a unique sturgeon roe with firm, mild flavor and black beads.
Capelin Caviar
Its small sized roes are similar to lumpfish caviar but chewy. The red and black varieties are the best. They can be colored artificially and are pasteurized too.
Trout Caviar
Its unique feature is the popping characteristics like the salmon caviar but with a subtle flavor. Some claim the caviars are good enough to be eaten off the spoon. Its roe is large and golden orange in color.
Note that caviars from other fish other than the sturgeon are designated based on the fish type it is obtained from. Container designated just as “caviar” should have only sturgeon caviar.
Additionally, there are different ways of processing caviars. The different methods result into four caviar categories namely; malossol, salted, pressed and pasteurized caviar. Malossol simply means little salt.