FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1) Can all fish roe be called caviar?
Today people often misuse the term caviar to describe the salted roe from any number of fish, when in fact, caviar refers to the salted roe of sturgeon. When used alone, the word caviar implies that it is of sturgeon origin. However, if the name of the fish is identified, the word caviar can be used. For example, salted salmon roe can be referred to as “Salmon Caviar”; salted trout roe can be referred to as "Trout Caviar". Therefore, if you only see the word caviar on a menu, you can, and should assume that it is of sturgeon origin.
2) What is “Malossol” caviar?
“Malossol” is not a separate variety of caviar. “Malossol” actually translates from Russian as “little salt”. Back when the term was originally created, it was somewhat of a bragging right, as it described the delicate salting methods they used to preserve their caviar. Thanks to refrigeration and sanitation regulations, today we use even less, about 3.5%. All Tsar Nicoulai caviars are produced under the malossol guidelines.
3) How long does caviar last?
For caviar, the most important aspect is storage. At Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, we store our products at +25°F (equal to - 4°C), the temperature lies just above the point at which caviar will freeze. Our caviars are kept in the original tins that weigh approximately 3.7 pounds. Like fine Champagnes, our tins are turned to encourage the even distribution of natural oils. If you follow our guidelines in “storing caviar at home” below, caviar in unopened vacuum sealed jars will maintain their freshness for five to six weeks, and unopened tins will be fresh for about two weeks. Once a jar or tin is opened, we suggest you enjoy the product within two to three days
4) What is the best way to store caviar at home?
Your caviar should be kept well-chilled so that you can experience the true, subtle flavors of the product. Since household refrigerators are usually too warm for caviar products, we suggest the following: place a sealed bag of ice, or a frozen ice pack, on the caviar tin or jar and place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator, usually the back; replenish the ice as it melts.
5) Can caviar be frozen?
If you want to maintain the integrity of your caviar, it should never be frozen. Caviar is far too delicate to freeze. If the caviar is frozen it will loose its subtle properties such as its texture and pop, however, the taste of the caviar will be preserved. But remember, half the fun of caviar is experiencing all the nuances, including the texture, so we strongly urge you not to freeze your caviar.
The whitefish, trout and salmon caviars, on the other hand, can be frozen for later use. We recommend that you do not freeze, defrost and refreeze the caviar.
6) What should I serve with my caviar?
Because caviar is an experience, we recommend that you minimize your accoutrements. In order to allow the subtle properties of caviar to shine, serve your caviar with a mild base, such as lightly toasted challah bread or blinis. Never serve your caviar on hard bases, such as melba toast as this will interfere with the texture of the caviar. Also, while it may be considered “traditional”, capers, onions and eggs are not recommended. They will only mask the true flavor of the caviar. When caviar was first introduced as a luxury item decades ago, there was little refrigeration, and something had to be used to mask the sub-standard quality of the caviar. True connoisseurs eat caviar by the spoonful, with little accompaniments at all.
7) Is caviar really produced in the US?
Yes. Until recently, the public was relatively unaware that America produced caviar. The truth is that there are several sturgeon species indigenous to the US. In fact, at the turn of the 19th century, the US was one of the largest caviar producing countries in the world. Because of rampant over-fishing and intense pollution, the sturgeon stock was quickly dwindling. As a solution, the US government had the foresight to ban the commercial fishing of sturgeon. Because virtually no sturgeon were captured and no caviar was made, the notion that caviar was an American heritage was quickly forgotten. Today, thanks to sturgeon farming in California and controlled commercial fishing in the Midwest, we can now again enjoy the great quality of American caviars. Chefs across the nation are quickly discovering the benefits of American caviar are raving about the quality and taste of the “new” American caviars.
8) How old are the fish when your process the caviar?
Our fish are about 7 to 9 years old when we produce the caviar – and they weigh about 100 pounds!
9) What’s the difference between farmed caviar and wild caviar?
Well, for one, caviar from farm raised sturgeon is sustainable. That means that the natural resources are not depleted to produce the caviar. That’s quite an important aspect, considering that all 27 species of sturgeon are on the endangered species list. But when it comes to comparing the quality, the caviar we produce from our farmed sturgeon actually rivals that of the wild caviar. Because the sturgeon swim in clean artesian well-water and are fed an all natural feed, the final product - the caviar, in this case - has a fresh and clean, buttery finish. Don’t get us wrong, we love the imported caviar, as well, especially the Iranian Asetra, but when it comes to consistency and quality, we really prefer our own California Estate Osetra. It’s by far the freshest caviar on the market. (You can read more about the farming and the benefits of farmed caviar under the “Sustainable Farming” tab).
10) Does color affect the taste or determine the type of caviar?
No, caviar is a natural product, and natural products vary in color, texture and consistency. Some chefs feel that Osetra caviar should only be black, or that a golden roe tastes better. They’ve been misled; the color of the roe only affects its aesthetic characteristics, and aesthetic preferences are largely subjective.
11) Why is beluga considered the best caviar?
Actually, beluga is the most expensive caviar, and therefore the most prestigious, but it’s not necessarily the best. Sometimes people associate higher price with higher quality. The truth is that rarity, rather than taste, drives the price of Beluga. Beluga is rarer than Osetra and Sevruga, so naturally it costs more. But like aesthetic preferences, taste is very subjective. Many people prefer Sevruga; most chefs enjoy Osetra, while some truly do love the flavor of Beluga. The best tasting caviar depends entirely upon your own personal taste.