As we prepare to celebrate National Caviar Day on July 18, it’s the perfect time for us to share tips on how to buy caviar. We asked Graham C. Gaspard, President of Black River Caviar, to give us the roe, er, low down on what you need to know to buy these pearls of luxury that were once reserved for royalty but have since become more accessible. His company is dedicated to sustainable farming of some of the most endangered sturgeon species and boasts a unique concept: it recreates the sturgeons’ natural habitat at a family-owned facility on the Rio Negro in Uruguay. The first caviar brand in the Southern Hemisphere presently offers two caviar varieties, Oscietra and Siberian [both 20 grams to 1000 grams], and is working on producing Beluga and Sevruga by 2018. We particularly love this caviar because it’s 100% natural–and completely fresh because it is never stocked. If you’re wondering how to buy caviar, here’s what Gaspard says you should know:
Know Where Your Caviar Is Coming From
First of all you want to make sure you’re getting your product from a reputable source. I wouldn’t want to buy it from a fly-by-night website. You can always question where they’re sourcing their caviar from. It’s best to get it from the source, like Black River Caviar. That way you can go back to the seller if you have to. Fortunately in the last 13 years I’ve been doing this, I can count the complaints on one hand. We don’t allow anything to go out of here unless it is top quality. Once you’re able to whittle it down, find that source and feel good about who to buy it from, now it’s time to buy.
Inspect The Goods Closely
After you buy it, open the tin. There are three things you want to be aware of. The first is sight, the second is smell and the third is taste. The first thing you want to look for is uniformity. There should be a sheen or shine to the eggs. They should be glistening. If they look muddy, it’s something you don’t even want to get into. The second is the smell. It shouldn’t smelly fishy. It’s just like buying fresh fish at the market; caviar is no different. If anything, it might have a smell of the sea but it’s not fishy; it’s more briny or mineral. Lastly is taste and that can really depend on the person. If caviar tastes fishy, I would send it back, or if it tastes bitter or has a metal taste to it, those are signs that the product is old. The taste should be lingering. It should stay with you on the back of your tongue for a while—but it should be something that is pleasant. It shouldn’t be something that you’re trying to get out of your mouth. If it doesn’t taste right—and it If it’s not something you find pleasurable then it’s something you should send back.
All caviar should have—and this goes for the smallest tins—a CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) display. Our CITES is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. If the tin doesn’t have this display, the caviar could be coming from a wild source and it could be possibly an illegal product. It’s pretty rare these days, but it is possible. You want to look for the production date that says when the product was harvested and the origin so you’ll know which country it is coming from. The best buy date is relative to how the caviar was handled; you can hold some product for over a year if you handle it correctly.
Be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for and that goes back to make sure you’re buying it from a reputable source. You can go online and search for beluga. If you call a company, the first question you want to ask them is what is the Latin name for that. For beluga, it is huso huso. If they stutter or even stall for a second then you’ll know they’re probably pulling your leg. You can always throw them off their game by asking that.
Photo Credit: Twitter/SturgeonMan