What color is caviar?
When most people consider the caviar color, "black" or "red" may be the two main variations that come to mind. While these are classic expressions for sturgeon and non-sturgeon fish caviar, there is a great deal of variation in color from species to species and within a single kind. What does this color suggest about the caviar itself? That's what we'll find out below.
The most common vocabulary of caviar colors is as follows: Black, Brown, Red, Silvery gray, Gold, Orange, Yellow, Amber, Green. Let's take a closer look at what caviar is and what the true meaning of this color is. Most often caviar is divided into red and black, which allows us to differentiate between sturgeon caviar and fish roe. First, we'll look at these two basic colors in full detail, and then we'll proceed to the other colors.
Black caviar is commonly referred to as caviar derived exclusively from sturgeon fish. Although the name may lead one to presume that caviar is only classified by the fact that it is black, in fact the caviar colors under the term vary from black or brown to gray or golden. Thus, you can expect caviar of these colors from Beluga, Osetra, Sturgeon, Coho, and many other fish in the Acipenseridae family. Although the terminology can be tricky, it is the caviar that many consider real caviar due to the fact that it comes from sturgeon fish.
One sturgeon that almost always carries small, black eggs is the American Hackleback. Color is not a determining factor as to why hackleback is cheaper than other varieties of sturgeon, it has more to do with the size and more rapid maturation of the individuals. For some people, they really like the consistency of color of species like Hackleback because they know what to anticipate.
You can also find other black "caviar" species that are not related to sturgeon. Among the examples is the Bowfin, which is not related to sturgeon, yet produces caviar that is certainly dark in color, typically with a reddish tint. Another example is the caviar of Lumpfish. The natural color of the eggs varies from pale tan to brown, but they are almost always colored black or red for uniformity. The fish eggs are also usually very small in size. Technically, it's just fish roe, but good examples of the varieties you may encounter are black caviar, often referred to as caviar.
Red roe comes from several species of fish, but most often it comes from salmonids (Salmonidae). You can also get red caviar from Whitefish or Trout. Technically, red caviar is not real caviar, but is the roe of non-sturgeon fish. Like black caviar, the color of red caviar varies and can include other shades such as orange or yellow.
Since lumpfish caviar is also usually colored red along with the black variation, you can expect many to categorize this type of roe as "red caviar."
Caviar of this color is recovered from many fish, usually Sevruga sturgeon or occasionally Paddlefish, but Beluga sturgeon is best known. The hue of the color can vary from fish to fish, but it is usually in a silvery/gray spectrum. It may also appear transparent or milky. If you examine the eggs carefully, you can see that each egg has an eye in it. This is the actual egg, and the caviar sac is the gel that surrounds it. This caviar color is unique, but characteristic of several species.
Amber caviar is often obtained from Kaluga, Osetra, and White Sturgeon. Amber-colored caviar is combined with black caviar and is characteristic of "classical" and "royal" varieties of sturgeon caviar.
One of the most widely used amber-colored caviar comes from Osetra sturgeon. Sturgeon comes in many colors, but amber is the most prevalent. Sturgeon can also be golden, but light colored sturgeon caviar is the most uncommon, so it is the most desirable and highly priced.
You can find huge quantities of beautiful amber sturgeon caviar at one of the oldest sturgeon farms in the world, located in Northern Israel. The conditions there are perfect, the cleanest cold spring water is used and great attention is paid to the health of the fish, quality of life and sustainability. The beads of caviar are satisfyingly firm and medium sized with a highly nutty and intense flavor.
Brown caviar is a little darker than amber caviar and is also characteristic of the classic and royal varieties of caviar. Sometimes both brown and gray hues are present in large quantities of caviar, the terminology of the color depends on the producer, so it can sometimes be somewhat unclear. Brown hues are also usually the same as the gray hues in some kinds of sturgeon caviar, and this also applies to some caviar colors of Beluga.
The golden caviar of the genuine sturgeon is the most cherished color. Since only a very small proportion of sturgeons produce light-colored eggs, they are less common and therefore more expensive.
When you are looking for golden caviar, make sure it is imperial or top grade. This ensures that you're not just paying for the color, but for all the other factors that make the caviar the best.
Salmon roe can come in various shades of orange and red. It is a very common variety that is used because of its availability and unique texture. Carp caviar is orange in color. It is usually smoked, and many believe it has a similar profile to smoked salmon.
Rainbow Trout roe is also orange, large compared to sturgeon roe, but smaller than salmon roe. It does not have a very salty taste like some other similar varieties. It is usually produced by farming methods, so it is very affordable and tastes great.
What color is the finest caviar?
Well, as you have read in this article, color does not always correspond to quality as well as price, and there is no one rule of thumb for caviar color. Keep in mind that sturgeon caviar usually ranges from black to golden in color, with golden being the rarest and most expensive if the quality is high, and caviar usually warm, bright colors such as yellow, orange, and red, but can also include cheaper, darker, non-sturgeon varieties.
So, now that you understand a little more about caviar varieties, the next time you order caviar, you'll be able to make choices based on your knowledge and more easily recognize certain kinds. It's always a good idea to experiment as much as possible with different kinds, and you'll be able to figure out which flavor of caviar you like best.
About the Author
Igor Fishbeyn is purveyor of fine sturgeon caviar and creator of the Skazka Caviar brand. He is an expert with decades of experience specializing in importing, wholesaling, and retailing the finest quality caviar in the world. Igor frequently writes about caviar news and various topics about the caviar industry. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.
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