For many Beluga sturgeon caviar is one of world’s most famous delicacies. It is a luxury gourmet food made from sturgeon eggs. Although the consumption of caviar probably dates back to antiquity, it was imported into medieval Europe by the Byzantines.
There is a lot of history attached to caviar. Although it may be a luxury food in modern times, it was consumed by peasants in medieval times in Russia. Caviar entered the world of luxury at the royal court during Shakespeare’s time. This delicacy has evolved and traveled the world since then.
The marketing of caviar was further developed, this time on a global scale, starting in the second half of the 18th century, with Russia becoming the main exporter of caviar from the Caspian Sea in the 19th century. We can also find the fish occasionally in the Adriatic Sea.
What is Caviar
It is a food consisting of salt-cured roe (fish eggs) of the family Acipenseridae (sturgeons). We eat caviar as a garnish or a spread. It certainly is one of the most expensive fine seafoods in the world. Other caviars are Ossetra and Sevruga caviars.
Sturgeons are primitive fish, among the oldest animal races in the evolutionary history of living things, from the Triassic period (245 to 208 million years ago), and among the last survivors of the dinosaur era.
The largest of the freshwater fishes, the European beluga (Huso huso) can measure 8 m, weigh 1.3 tons, and live for fifty to sixty years, and spawn from the age of fifteen to twenty.
Their exceptional longevity inspires many myths and legends. The writings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, speaks of sturgeons and caviar from ancient Greece in the 5th century BC, preserved in salt, which came by merchant ships from the Caspian Sea and the Volga, between neighbouring Persia (now Iran) and Russia.
Originally, caviar was by no means a product of choice for gourmets. Bertrandon de la Broquière, discovering this dish during his trip to Asia Minor in 1431, wrote: “And fled to this city of the Bourse where I first ate caviar with olive oil, which, when one has nothing else to eat but caviar, is only for the Greeks”
Caviar comes from Persian: خاویار, romanized to: xâvyâr, and meaning ‘egg-bearing’. Traditionally, the term caviar refers only to roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. However, depending on the country, caviar may also be used to describe the roe of other species of sturgeon. Or even other fish such as salmon, steelhead, trout, lumpfish, whitefish, or carp.
Caviar is classified into three quality categories according to its colour: the lighter the colour, the better its quality (dark tone (0), medium tone (00) and light tone (000)). To fully enjoy its flavours, the product must be consumed as soon as possible.
Iranian Almas Caviar from the Rare Albino Beluga Sturgeon
The world’s most expensive caviar is the very rare Iranian Almas caviar. It is a pale-colored beluga caviar that comes from 100-year-old albino sturgeons from the Caspian Sea. ‘Almas’ is a brand name which means diamond in Russian.
The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest salt-water lake, bordering Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
But what makes Almas caviar so special? This caviar comes from the Iranian Beluga fish. The fish can be found in the still less polluted Caspian Sea, which is one of the reasons why Almas caviar is so special. The pearly white colour of this caviar is the speciality that pushes its price. Add to this a silky texture and Almas caviar becomes, what it is.
You can get Almas Caviar on Amazon as sol by Amazon Seller Fine Food Specialist. Another way to get Almas caviar is at the Caviar House & Plum Tree in London (England) and it is served in a 24 carat gold box if you buy it by the kilo
Almas is as Expensive as a Diamond
Almas caviar is considered the most expensive caviar in the world. It even is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. Beluga sturgeon caviar in general is the most expensive type of caviar, with market prices, at the beginning of the millennium, ranging from $7,000 to $10,000/kg ($3,200 to $4,500/lb).
You can buy Almas caviar in gold-plated presentation boxes and retails at about $25,000 for 2.2 pounds (which is about 1 kilo) or €37 per spoon.
The albino sturgeon
‘White caviar’ comes from the albino sturgeon. They carry a genetic mutation that prevents the production of the cells’ natural pigment, melanin. As a result, their skin, fins, eyes, and all organs have a pale yellow colour. Albinism is a genetic trait found in all species of sturgeon. We must therefore when we say ‘white caviar’ from which species it comes.
Other, non-mutated sturgeons also give very clear caviar. Ivory in colour with a more or less patina for ossetra or white sturgeon, light grey for beluga, all truly exceptional caviars.
The story of albinism
Albinos are found in the majority of animal species, from insects to humans. Rare and different, albino animals have always been the cause for fantasies. Albinos were believed to have magical powers. As for humans, sadly enough, albinos have always been and still are constantly persecuted. In Kenya, for example, laws are being drawn up to protect them from organised murders under the pretext of witchcraft.
In the Caspian Sea, when an albino sturgeon was caught – due to the myths around albinism – their caviar was of course reserved for only the highest persons.
Are white caviars better than others?
So albino is perceived to be exceptional, even magical. And should taste better than other caviar, even if it’s not the case. An albino will often have a fishier, less delicate taste than other caviars. Ivory caviar from non-albino sturgeon is carefully matured and selected to obtain a product of great finesse.
As long as albinism remains an exception, our conditioning to give more value to what is rare and exceptional and in this case white remains the same.
Since 2014, however, some fish farms have voluntarily selected albino sturgeon to produce only white caviar. They have selected a strain of small Acipenser ruthenus (sterlet) sturgeons that carry albinism. Thanks to the short development cycle of this fish, they quickly achieved a completely albino population. Since 2014 these farms have been harvesting this caviar, hence its appearance on the catalogues. Sterlet caviar has long been the “poor little brother” of caviar. Small grain, average taste quality, it was not very popular because its cousin the sevruga was preferred. In the end, this “high production” white caviar is a product whose only distinction is its colour. It is neither rare nor particularly good.
How to choose “white” caviar?
For those who believe in the magical powers of white food, or to impress easily, albino sterlet caviar can do the trick. But to taste the true exceptional caviar, like Almas caviar, you’ll have to find the secret ivory caviar reserves of the most prestigious brands in the hope they will sell you a few hundred grams of these very clear caviars.
They will have surrounded with the greatest care because they are truly exceptional. Apart from the fact that this caviar is rarely “on display” but is reserved for connoisseurs, the price is commensurate with the rareness thereof.
Main source: Wikipedia