Caviar is a rare delicacy enjoyed worldwide thanks to both its luxurious taste and a wide variety of health benefits. It’s a type of fish egg, or roe, harvested from specific sturgeon species. There are a variety of different types of caviar available on the market, and not all are created equal.
Osetra is one of the finest types of caviar that money can buy in terms of taste and nutrition. Many people wonder just what sets Osetra caviar apart from the competition. Here, we’ll give you a comprehensive answer to the question: what is osetra caviar?
Where Does Osetra Caviar Come From?
Osetra caviar is a traditional type of caviar that originates from Russia. It comes from the Osetra sturgeon, native to the Caspian sea. Other types of true caviar, including both Beluga and Sevruga caviar, also come from the same region.
The Osetra Sturgeon
The Osetra sturgeon is an ancient fish that has remained virtually unchanged since the prehistoric era. The fish is native to the Caspian sea, where people have harvested caviar for centuries. Caviar has been a delicacy as far back as the ancient Greeks. In recent times, Russia has increasingly claimed the branding, calling the Osetra Sturgeon “Russian Sturgeon” that produces “Russian Osetra Caviar” even though Russia only controls part of the Caspian Sea coastline.
The Osetra sturgeon is slightly more common than its cousin, the Beluga, making its caviar cheaper than Beluga caviar. It’s also smaller than the Beluga, though it can still reach up to 250 pounds in size. Fish are mature by around 12 to 15 years of age, though they can live to be over 100 under ideal conditions.
Harvesting Osetra Caviar
Once female sturgeon mature, they carry hundreds of thousands to millions of eggs internally. A female’s eggs can make up as much as 15% to 18% of their body weight. At this point, they are ready for harvesting.
There are three different ways to extract caviar from a mature sturgeon fish. While the traditional method kills the fish, newer humane methods keep breeding fish alive. In all three practices, it’s important to stun the fish using cold water to avoid stress.
Traditional harvesting procedures remove the fish roe sack by making an incision down the length of the belly. While efficient, this kills the fish and takes it out of the reproductive pool. It isn’t the most sustainable harvesting option, especially when it comes to commercially caught fish.
It’s also possible to harvest sturgeon roe via C-section. Ovaries get left in place during egg removal, and harvesters stitch the live fish back up after the procedure. This process allows mature females to continue producing roe and helps to keep population levels up.
The final extraction method simulates natural birth by hand-massaging the eggs out of the sturgeon. This method also keeps female fish alive and carries no risk of infection. However, massaging takes time, skill, and dedication, which can increase the price point of the caviar. More affordable Osetra caviar varieties typically get harvested via the traditional method.
Tasting Osetra Caviar
It’s easy to recognize Osetra caviar by its rich, light color. Both Beluga and Sevruga caviars range from gray to black in color. On the other hand, Osetra caviar most often comes in shades of brown or gold.
Osetra roe is small and firm, giving it a texture that worlds both alone and in other dishes. Though the roe is smaller than a Beluga’s, it isn’t quite as delicate. It can be easier for home chefs to work with Osetra caviar without worrying about compromising consistency.
All caviar has a similarly nutty flavor profile, regardless of variety. However, Osetra tends to have more seafood notes than Beluga caviar, which is milder and creamier. However, Osetra caviar is not quite as strong as Sevruga.
You may find that Osetra caviar varies more than others in taste, color, and consistency. Osetra sturgeon are bottom-feeders. Their diet can have a significant impact on egg quality. In some ways, it’s a bit similar to how conch and clam feed.
Osetra Caviar Grades
All caviar, including Osetra varieties, comes in one of two different grades. This ranking gives you an idea about the quality of the roe and can have a significant impact on price point when shopping. Grades are assigned based on egg size and uniformity, the richness of color, tenderness, taste, and fragrance.
Grade 1 caviar is the finest that money can buy, boasting the largest, most uniform eggs with the richest flavor. A grade 1 Osetra caviar will have medium-sized, firm, and uniform eggs and a golden brown color. It will also boast a noticeable aroma and a delicate, buttery flavor.
Grade 2 Osetra caviar is also delicious, but it tends to lack the appearance or refined taste of grade 1 varieties. Often, a grade 2 Osetra will be darker in color, have a more pungent odor, and have smaller or more delicate eggs. The taste will be similar to grade 1 but may have more overpowering seafood notes.
Osetra makes a particularly good choice when combining caviar with other dishes. Its flavor is mild enough that it doesn’t overpower. At the same time, you won’t lose the taste amongst other flavors. The roe is also firm enough that it won’t break apart as easily when cooking or stirring.
Remember that caviar can oxidize when exposed to certain metals, giving it a bitter taste. Always make sure to handle and serve caviar using a nonreactive metal or a material such as bone, pearl, or wood.
With so many different types of caviar available on the market, many people wonder: what is Osetra Caviar?
Osetra caviar is one of three types of true caviars and is famed for its rich color, firm texture, and bold flavor. It also tends to have a more reasonable price point than other rarer caviar varieties such as Beluga. Whether you’re planning a special dinner or simply want to indulge yourself, Osetra caviar makes an excellent choice for anyone looking to add a little bit of luxury to their next meal.