Eating more caviar is fast becoming a fun staple on some people’s new year’s resolution lists. Many new caviar enthusiasts are introduced to this luxury food for the first time at elegant holiday celebrations and develop an appetite for this decadent fare. However, the sheer range in selection, quality and pricing available to consumers today can make buying this delicacy a bit daunting even for a seasoned caviar gourmand. A new consumer quickly learns that knowing how to buy caviar involves a lot more than simply picking a brand.
The concept of being an informed consumer is especially important when it comes to purchasing caviar which is known to be both pricey and perishable. To be a savvy caviar consumer, it is not only helpful to have a basic understanding of the evolution of this delicacy from its traditional roots to the superior quality alternatives available today, but also how eat caviar, how to protect it and of course how to buy caviar.
The following tips on how to buy caviar provide a cursory overview that may be helpful as you navigate through the caviar buying process.
Seven Tips on How to Buy Caviar
- The primary difference between plain old fish roe and authentic caviar is the type of fish from which the eggs are harvested. Traditionally, to achieve the standalone title of “caviar” the unfertilized eggs or roe must be harvested from descendants of the Beluga, Osetra or the Sevruga sturgeon species. Marketing specifications mandate that caviar from other types of fish must be designated by a prefix that describe the sturgeon specie or type of fish from which the roe is derived. Over the years, Beluga caviar has become extremely rare, illegal to purchase in some countries and excessively pricey when available. In fact, Beluga sturgeons are protected as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act which prohibits the import/export and interstate sale of this caviar.
- There are various caviar alternatives to the three traditional sturgeon eggs that many avid caviar connoisseurs heartily recommend. Some even suggest that the caviar from these sturgeons in many instances meet and exceed taste expectations because they are raised under the most environmentally healthy conditions in artesian waters without the threat of predators and on a toxin-free diet. The roe is also harvested from these sturgeons at the ideal time to produce consistent premium quality caviar at an affordable cost. These include Hackleback Caviar, the California White Sturgeon and Paddlefish Caviar which is also referred to as American Caviar. The Paddlefish is closely related to sturgeons in that they are an ancient specie with fossil that some records indicate date back over 300 million years. These caviars contain the same health benefits such as proteins, vitamins, Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, micro- and macroelements and are in no way inferior in texture or taste derived from traditional sources.
- Caviar quality is distinguished, graded and priced by the salting process as well as the size, texture and flavor of the eggs. Caviar with a grade 1 designation indicate a high-quality product featuring large, whole eggs that are firm with high gloss and an excellent flavor profile. Grade 2 caviar designation indicates that although the flavor may be excellent, some beads may not be intact or as firm in texture as a grade 1 caviar.
Although a color code is part of the grading and labeling process, color does not necessarily impact the actual essence of the caviar. Still, a light golden caviar is rare, highly desirable and therefore more expensive than caviar of other hues.
- Salt content also factor into caviar quality. As a rule, caviar that undergoes a light salting process referred to as “Malossol” is typically recognized as having the highest quality beads. Caviar that is produced with this brining method will be indicated on the label. However, keep in mind that less salt also means that the caviar is much more perishable.
- Since caviar is highly perishable, it is best to purchase as needed. Pay attention to the expiration date and use accordingly. While pasteurized caviar has a longer shelf life than fresh; both need to be stored and refrigerated at the appropriate temperature.
- One of the most important guidelines to keep in mind when buying caviar online is to choose a reputable purveyor that offers a money-back or product replacement guarantee. Experts suggest that before purchasing caviar, that consumers make a small purchase initially, in order to evaluate the quality of the caviar as well as the company’s packaging and shipping process. Each product should be marked with a reference of the original CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) code number.
- Overall, the best measure of good quality caviar is that it should never have an overly fishy aroma, be mushy or too salty.
Where to buy Caviar Online
The Caviar Lover Store is your best resource for the finest quality caviar and other gourmet meats and accessories. You can also find delicious and innovative recipes and suggestions on how to eat caviar when you visit our online store at caviarlover.com. We feature an impressive range of quality caviar and other specialty foods such as foie gras, truffles and a variety of gourmet gift baskets. Also, learn more about our gourmet discounts and tips by joining our Caviar Lover Facebook page.