Finest of the Gourmet World
The Beluga sturgeon, Osetrova sturgeon and Sevruga sturgeon provide the roe (eggs) for the true Caspian caviars. The largest sturgeon is the Beluga and the smallest is the Sevruga. These ancient fish take a quite a long time to fully mature, with the Beluga taking about 20 years. These fish are usually found in the Caspian Sea in Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.
The sturgeons are actually caught before they lay their eggs. Once they are caught, the fish are sedated and the eggs are carefully massaged out. When the eggs have been produced, the fish are then returned to sea.
The finest large shiny caviar comes from the Beluga sturgeon. The eggs are about 2.5 millimeters in diameter and are grey to dark grey in color with a delicate, rich and creamy texture. Beluga caviar is generally considered to be the finest and most prized caviar in the world. Grey Beluga caviar is generally paler in color than Beluga caviar, but it is just as valuable and tasty. Top of the line caviar needs to have a bright, glossy color, a fresh mild aroma, equal sized eggs and a slightly salty flavor. The texture of the caviar should be firm to the bite instead of soft.
Beluga caviars are quite expensive as these fish came very close to extinction a few years ago. In early September 2004, the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) stopped the global trade of Caspian Sea sturgeon caviar, including beluga caviar. This was done because the fish were being illegally caught and the stock of sturgeon was becoming dangerously low. Beluga caviar from Iran and Russia is once again available at the present time, but you may have a hard time trying to find some and once you do, it will cost you a pretty penny.
Beluga caviar could cost you anywhere around $75 for a one ounce jar and over $1,000 for a 16 ounce tin. Beluga caviar has a shelf life of about four to six weeks and should be stored at a temperature between 26 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.