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Caviar From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Caviar From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Caviar facts and figures you maybe don't know: from the different types of caviar to the most expensive ones, here is a closer look at this gourmet delicacy.

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Acipenseridae. The name of a prehistoric fish family from which caviar is obtained. Commonly known as sturgeon, there are around 20 different species native to the cold and temperate waters of the northern hemisphere.

Beluga. The quality and price of caviar varies according to the species. The most highly priced caviar of all is that of Beluga, followed by Ossetra and Sevruga.

Caspian. Most of the sturgeons killed for the caviar market come from the Caspian Sea.

Diamond. The most exclusive quality of caviar is undoubtedly Almas, which is Russian for “diamond”: in fact its price can even be as high as this precious form of carbon.

Extinction. Sturgeons are now in danger of extinction: overfishing, first and foremost, along with dams, pollution and an impoverished environment, have reduced the population by 70% in the space of one century.

Fake. Fake caviar is very common. Each tin must carry a universal code with information regarding origin, species and whether or not the caviar derives from a wild or harvested source. All too often, however, such labels are also faked.

Gold. “Black gold”, or “white gold” are names given to caviar; the exquisitely delicious eggs sometimes to be found behind the base of the gills of certain species are actually gold in colour; a 24 carat gold tin contains Almas caviar, the most expensive in the world: 25,000 Euro per kilo. And that's not all... (see letter T).

Hundred. Female sturgeons can actually carry 100 pounds - 45 kilos - of eggs at one time.

Italian. Italy sells caviar to Russia: this paradoxical achievement of “Italian business flair” has bypassed the Russian embargo against European imports - from which caviar is exempt -, and transformed Russia into the best customer of the most important producer of European caviar, an Italian company of course.

Julius II. Julius II, known as the "Warrior Pope” and the papal patron of Michelangelo's works in the Sistine Chapel, used to love caviar: he was responsible for introducing it at European royal ceremonies, thus sealing its reputation forever as "food fit for a King", or more precisely as "food fit for a Tsar".

Khāg-āvar. The Persian word from which the noun "caviar" derives literally translates as "roe generator".

Lumpfish. Lumpfish, together with paddlefish and salmon, are other species of fish whose roe is salt-cured in the same way as sturgeon roe. However, since 2010 the Codex Alimentarius of the United Nations has decreed that the term "caviar" may only be used to indicate the latter.

Malossol. The Russian term traditionally used to indicate that a caviar is "low in salt" - 3-5% - and therefore more valuable. Today, however, this wording is not such a reliable indicator of quality.

Ninety. The number of sturgeon farms worldwide: a quantity, however, that is not sufficient to prevent this species from being overfished.

Ounce. The finest caviar can easily cost as much as 200 $ an ounce (28 grams): this roe is taken from the larger and older animals, those which should not be fished at all since they are crucial to the survival of the population.

Pearl. Pearl, or rather mother-of-pearl, is the ideal material a caviar spoon should be made of for gathering up the precious fish roe pearls. A metal spoon would ruin their taste.

Qantas. The Australian national airline company is the latest to have added caviar to its First Class menu: an impressive amount of caviar is purchased by airline companies all over the world to serve to their top-ranking customers.

Ringing. The sound made by caviar when the roe rub one against the other in the packaging. This perceivable sound will enable a connoisseur to recognize a high quality product: excellent caviar purrs like a cat...

Spherificator. An ingenious device recently developed by a Canadian company. It transforms any type of food into pearls resembling caviar. A viral success.

Teaspoon. One teaspoon of Strottarga caviar? 37,000 Euros. These are white caviar pearls covered with a 22 carat gold lace, marketed by an Austrian firm run by the Gruell family, father and son.

Ukraine. Crimea, in the south of Ukraine, is the region from which ancient Greeks used to import caviar, already a luxury item in those days.

Vivace. The name of the German fish farm which, after decades of research, has fine tuned a technique for producing “cruelty-free” caviar: a sort of “induced labour” thanks to which the creature not only survives but deposits its eggs after a belly massage, without even having to undergo a "caesarean".

White. The white roe of over sixty year-old animals, an extremely rare albino caviar that is one of the most expensive in the world: the extremely famous Almas caviar.

XXX. Casanova, the Venetian womanizer whose name has gone down in history, used to eat caviar by the teaspoonful... Caviar, consisting of eggs which in themselves symbolize fertility, also stands for decadent luxury and is one of the protagonists in any list of foods believed to be aphrodisiacal.

Years. 20 is the age at which the females of many wild sturgeon species produce their roe; 100 years or more, on the other hand, is their life expectancy.

Zeros. One, two or three zeros indicate the colour of the precious roe and their price: from dark to light, the latter being "Royal" caviar.

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