Beluga caviar consists of the roe (or eggs) of the Beluga sturgeon found primarily in the Caspian Sea. It can also be found in the Black Sea basin and occasionally in the Adriatic Sea. This fish is currently considered to be endangered, causing the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the importation of Beluga caviar. Beluga is also the most expensive of caviars.
The Beluga sturgeon can take up to 20 years to reach maturity. The fish harvested for caviar are often nearly 2000 pounds. The eggs themselves are the largest of the commonly used roes, and range in color from light blue to black, with the lighter colors coming from older fish, and being the highest valued. Any additions by producers diminish the value of the roe, and the caviar usually reaches the market without any additions or processing whatsoever. Most people also find a good bit of acidity and/or sweetness in the flavor as well.
As with most caviars, Beluga is usually handled with a spoon made of mother of pearl, bone, or other non-metallic material, as metal utensils tend to impart an unwelcome metallic taste to the delicate and expensive roe. This caviar, as with most others is traditionally served in a variety of ways, including hollowed and cooked new potatoes, or on toast points or a blini. These are served with either sour cream or crème fraîche. Additional serving options are minced onion or minced hard boiled egg whites. The higher grade caviars, including Beluga, usually need very little embellishment.
Beluga caviar ranges in price from more than $5,000 in the United States (where it can’t be imported at all and has been illegal to do so since Sept. 2005), to a low of around $250 per kilo in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, the major production center.