Aside from the origin of the actual roe itself—is it from a beluga sturgeon or osetra?—there’s one other thing that distinguishes the taste of caviar. And that happens to be the salting process or the preparation process.

Not only does this process help preserve the caviar, it also helps create its distinctive taste. The following are the different ways to prepare sturgeon caviar:

Pressed caviar

Pressed caviar, or as it’s known in Russian, payusnaya, is popular in Russia and Eastern Europe. It’s usually made from roe that was damaged or broken or ones that are too soft. Traditionally, this was the method of choice for preserving sturgeon caviar that will need to be transported, especially in the days before pasteurization and refrigeration.

The resulting caviar from this process is very salty and is in the form of a black paste because a lot of the liquid is extracted using this process.

Pasteurized caviar

This method is used to increase the shelf life of the caviar. This is done by partially cooking the roe. First, the roe is salted and then cooked at around 60° Celsius. The length of time that the caviar is pasteurized depends on the size of the caviar container.

With this method, the caviar will remain unspoiled for up to a year, even without being refrigerated. This type was actually first produced in America at the end of the 19th century. The Russians didn’t utilize this style of production until the beginning of the 20th century.

Malossol

The literal translation of Malossol is “little salt” in Russian. This method is seen as the preferred way of preparing caviar for connoisseurs. However, there are variations with this preparation type.

For the European markets, the sturgeon caviar is lightly salted with a mix of salt (2.5 up to 4 percent salt) with the addition of borax. The caviar is then sealed and refrigerated until it matures. This can take up to fourteen months.

Borax isn’t used in the US market, however, which means that US sturgeon caviar producers that use this method will need to use a higher percentage of salt to make up for the absence of borax. But the US isn’t the only market that doesn’t utilize borax because the Iranian market uses pure salt and any caviar intended for the Japanese market is also devoid of borax.

Matured Caviar

This method requires the roe to be placed in large tins which are sealed with rubber bands. This will let the roe mature and swell. The length of the maturation process depends on whether the roe was obtained from wild sturgeons or farmed sturgeons. The roe from wild sturgeon go on the market after three or four months of maturation, whereas roe from farmed sturgeon differ according to the producer’s wants as well as the taste of their clientele 

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