I picked up a few jars of caviar from a market the other day. I brought them home and began eating them. As many of my readers know, I enjoy good tasting caviar. It has a unique taste that is bursting with flavor and begins melting in your mouth. If I had to describe it, I would describe it as having a sweet, salty, and buttery taste.
While sitting there appreciating my delicious meal, it piqued my interest and curiosity to learn what type of fish does caviar come from. So, I went to my computer and began doing research on the beloved caviar. I decided to share my findings with others who may be wondering about caviar as well.
After reading this article, you will officially know:
- What caviar is
- How caviar is harvested: the classic method and the humane method
- If farm and wild caviar have a difference in taste
- What type of fish caviar comes from
- And what goes well with each type of caviar
What Is Caviar?
Caviar is fish eggs that are collected from a sturgeon. These eggs are commonly referred to as “roe.” It is debatable as to what type of fish eggs are authentic roe, but majority of professional roe eaters suggest that real roe only comes from sturgeon even though all types of fish lay eggs. I mention this because a lot of people prefer fish eggs from flying fish, trout, and salmon. However, some experts do not believe this is considered true caviar.
For your convenience, TIENHAU Co. Ltd has created a YouTube video which shows a sturgeon farm in Russia and what the daily tasks usually consists of. This video is very insightful when it comes to sturgeon farms in Russia that are working hard to produce caviar. It is a very neat video that I think everyone should watch.
If you are interested in learning more about the best types of Russian caviar, I have written an article on this topic. In the article, I go into detail about several of my favorite types of caviar and my top recommendations on products that I think my readers should consider buying. By clicking here, you will be redirected to the article on best Russian caviar.
How Is Caviar Harvested?
After learning what caviar actually is, you may be wondering how it is harvested. This is a common question because we are always curious about how our food is made and prepared. Therefore, I will go over the two major roe harvesting methods in this section, which include the classic harvesting method and the humane harvesting method.
The Classic Caviar Harvesting Method
In short, the classic method kills the fish. This is the method that has been used for centuries, and it has experienced no changes made to the process. Even with technology and other things progressing, the way people choose to harvest caviar has seen little to no changes. This is an old process that has been passed down for many years. With sturgeon on the verge of becoming extinct, this method has certainly seen a lot of uproar in controversy because it requires killing the fish to retrieve the eggs. I will provide the five steps of the classic harvesting method below.
The adult fish that is carrying the eggs is placed in very cold water to begin cooling. This will decrease their ability to move, lower their fat content, and make them mostly unconscious before they are killed.
The fish are killed very quickly. Then, they are cleaned with water that has been purified.
Most of these fish have two sacs of eggs. Both of these must be removed quickly after the fish has been killed, or the body of the fish will release a chemical that harms the eggs. This is a post-mortem type of reaction from the fish. Once the sacs of eggs are out of the body, they are fully cleaned.
All the egg sacs are analyzed to ensure that every egg has been separated from the membrane. The fish eggs are washed one more time, drained, and set aside to prepare for the grading, weighing, and salting process.
The Humane Caviar Harvesting Method
On the other hand, the humane method collects the fish eggs without harming them. This is often described as the “no-kill method” or “cruelty-free method.” It instead uses hormone therapies to get the eggs without killing the fish. Of course, it is not an easy process, but some people prefer to have caviar that is harvested this way over the classic way. This method has not been around too long. In fact, it was first conducted by a German scientist named Angela Kohler.
Below, I will go over the four steps of the humane harvesting method.
- When the fish is noticeably ready to lay eggs, they are injected with a hormone a few days beforehand. The hormones will help separate the eggs from the membrane sac in the stomach of the fish. This will also help the eggs come out easier.
- In some cases, the fish is placed in cool water or sedated to prevent any possible stresses that may impair the fish eggs.
- The fish is washed in water that is purified. Then, the eggs are taken out in one of two different ways. These ways are the C-Section Method or the Vivace Method. The C-Section Method is when a small cut is made on the stomach area of the fish, and the eggs are taken out very carefully. After all the eggs have been fully removed, the fish will be sewn back up and completely bandaged. This method must be done very carefully to prevent any infections or damage to the organs of the fish. The other method, the Vivace Method, massages the eggs out of the fish. It looks a lot like natural childbirth in humans. Once the eggs are fully out, they must be completely rinsed off with a water-calcium solution quickly. This will help strengthen the fish eggs, so they can go through the process of salting, handling, and curing.
- Then, the eggs are tested for firmness, washed, and filtered. They will be fully drained, weighed, salted, and graded.
A fun fact about sturgeon is that they take about 10 years to develop eggs that can be used for caviar. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to want to find other methods besides killing these creatures, so they can live long lives after developing eggs. However, the argument remains that the texture and flavor just do not give the same authenticity that the classic method provides.
Do Farm and Wild Caviar Taste Different from One Another?
The truth is that farm and wild caviar do have a different taste from one another. The reason for this is because the diet and environment of a fish has a great impact on the flavor of roe that they produce. It can affect how smooth, buttery, or rich it is. For example, wild fish eat a variety of different things, which gives their eggs a complex taste, whereas farmed fish can only eat the food that they are given, which gives their eggs a set taste. If you always purchase your roe from the same farm, it will most likely always have the same taste, while wild roe will have various tastes. In fact, each can of wild caviar may taste different. Majority of professional roe eaters believe that farm and wild caviar have similar tastes, but the wild roe is described as having a more intense taste. The flavor is much more intensified.
For a quick look at how Russian sturgeon caviar is farmed and processed, watch Eater’s YouTube video. This informational video goes over each step of the process as well as shows you how it is done. After watching this video, you will have gained a deep understanding of the roe farming method.
A common debate first-time caviar eaters encounter is the red caviar vs black caviar issue. It is a common dilemma when trying to decide which type to try first. If you would like some help deciding which one to try, take a look at this article in which I go more into detail about black and red roe.
What Type of Fish Does Caviar Come From?
To finally answer the question that you have been waiting for, there are a variety of different types of fish that produce roe. For your convenience, I will list the different types below. Keep in mind that there may be other types of fish that are not mentioned in this list.
- Beluga Sturgeon
- Kaluga Sturgeon
- Russian Sturgeon
- Amur Sturgeon
- Adriatic Sturgeon
- Persian Sturgeon
- Siberian Sturgeon
- Shovelnose Sturgeon
- White Sturgeon
- Sterlet Sturgeon
- Starry Sturgeon
- Osettra Sturgeon
- Sevruga Sturgeon
- Hackleback Sturgeon
- Paddlefish Sturgeon
To get a closer look at America’s only Beluga caviar farm, consider watching Business Insider’s YouTube video. This short video gives an in-depth view of the only legal Beluga roe farm in the United States as well as briefly explains all there is to know about this popular type of caviar.
I will now provide a few suggestions on what goes well with each type of caviar.
What Goes Well with Each Type of Caviar?
Although some people prefer to eat roe by itself, a lot of people do prefer to serve it with some other type of snack or spread. If you are planning to serve some tasty roe to a few dinner guests or are simply just looking for something to eat with your meal, I am glad to help you with this.
The following are a few products that are commonly served with roe:
- Crème Fraiche
- Lemon wedges
- Hard-cooked eggs
- Pita Chips
- Cream cheese, sour cream, or butter
The overall goal is to eat your roe with something that will not take over its entire taste. Therefore, I recommend something more plain or bland, which ensures that you still get the flavorful bursts of roe.
To determine how much roe you should purchase, serve, and eat, I recommend reading my other article that focuses on caviar serving suggestions. This article will help you out a lot when it comes to trying to decide how much roe to serve and eat with your guests. You can view this article by clicking here.
- How to harvest caviar
- No-kill caviar aims to keep the treat and save the sturgeon
- Where does caviar come from?
- Caviar vs. roe: what is the difference between roe and caviar?
I hope that this article answered your question as to “what type of fish does caviar come from?” As you can see, there are different types of fish that roe can come from as well as different ways that it can be harvested. If you are like me, you do not mind where it comes from as long as the caviar is tasty. However, it is great that you are researching about the food that you eat. This will make it a more interesting and entertaining meal. Enjoy!