True caviar is the salted and matured eggs or roe of the female sturgeon. The eggs are usually a pearly greyish-black in colour and vary in size. Most caviar comes from the Caspian Sea and is processed in Russia and Iran. Beluga is the most expensive variety, followed by Oscietra and Sevruga, all of which are produced from different species of sturgeon.
You can buy caviar in tins or jars. The roe should be firm but soft and moist and never dry.
Other considerations: sturgeon populations in the Caspian Sea are under extreme pressure, with breeding stocks of some species critically low. Consequently, environmentally-minded chefs and consumers have been exploring other types of fish roe as an alternative. ‘Avruga’ is a caviar substitute made from herring roe; lumpfish roe and salmon roe are other alternatives.
Keep caviar well chilled in the fridge and take it out just before you’re ready to serve.