Caviar is the prepared roe (eggs) of the female fish of the sturgeon family, which includes the sturgeon, beluga, ship, sevruga and sterlet. These fish are caught in the winter months in the estuaries of the rivers which flow into the Baltic
Sea and the Danube.
Caviar is prepared by first straining the roe to remove membranes, fibres and fatty matter, and then salting it. The best
caviar does not keep well and because of this and the difficult preparation, it is considered a delicacy in the West. In
Russia and Eastern Europe, a coarser quality caviar is a staple food, tradition-ally accompanied by vodka.
The consistency of caviar varies from fine to coarse and in colour from grey to black. (Red caviar, which comes from
salmon, is inferior in quality but has a pleasant flavour.)
There is a difference of opinion about which caviar is the best. Caviar from the sturgeon is fine and grey to black in
colour, and it keeps well. The roe of the beluga is large-grained and grey. Ship caviar is light-coloured and fine, while
sevruga is finer still. The fine roe of the sterlet is quite dark in colour and in Russian Tsarist times was much prized and reserved for the Imperial family.
Caviar should be served very cold with plain bread or crisp toast and no other accompaniments except, perhaps, lemon
juice, depending on the saltiness of the caviar. Caviar is a popular hors d’oeuvre and is used in canapes.