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Ossetra (also Oscietra, Osetra, or Asetra) caviar, is one of the most prized and expensive types of caviar, (eclipsed in price only by Beluga caviar). It is obtained from the Ossetra sturgeon which weighs 50-400 pounds and can live up to 50 years.
Ossetra caviar varies from deep brown to gold in color. Lighter varieties are more sought after as they have the richest flavor and come from the oldest of the sturgeons. Golden Ossetra is a rare form of Ossetra caviar, and is golden-yellow in color with a very rich flavor.
The word Osetra is the transcription of the Russian word “осётр” (“осeтр”) which translates into English as sturgeon. At one time the term "ossetra" simply referred to Russian sturgeon species harvested for this type of caviar.
In Russian there are different names for the species of sturgeon that live in various territories such as Beluga (Huso Huso), Sevruga (Acipenser stellatus) and Sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus). The name Osetra corresponds to the species Acipenser gueldenstaedtii which is much smaller than the Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso). As caviar, it has a firmer texture than the more delicate Beluga caviar. In the territory of The Russian Federation, dwells another type of sturgeon Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser Baerii), which is farmed all over the world. Because it can adapt to a wider range of habitats, it is easily grown on the farms and begins to produce caviar faster than Acipenser gueldenstaedtii.
Throughout the whole history of black caviar consumption reference to Osetra was made only to the fish that was caught first in the Imperial Russia, then USSR and now in Russian Federation.
Today the Caspian Ossetra is facing extinction in its native habitat. Farming the sturgeon is the only way to continue the production of high quality caviar. Israel is currently a leader in the production of Russian Ossetra Caviar Acipenser gueldenstaedtii. Branded as "Karat Caviar" recent exports are now available in the United States in order to meet the demand of caviar since there has been no 2009 issue for wild Caspian Caviar production.
As with other caviars, ossetra is traditionally served on blinis with crème fraiche. The lower-graded varieties of caviar are used as stuffings in many seafood dishes and for some meat dishes. Caviar is often found in salads as well.