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Caviar 101

Celebrating 2000, Volume 2000 Special Issue 2000

Not all caviar is created equal. If you dismiss caviar as gritty or too salty, it's possible that the type you tried wasn't the highest quality, because a good caviar--fresh, carefully stored, and served just right -- can be a revelation.

Caviar is extremely perishable and must be refrigerated from the moment it's taken from the fish to the time it's eaten. Pasteurized caviar is roe that has been partially cooked, thereby giving the eggs a slightly different texture and a longer shelf life. Pressed caviar is composed of damaged eggs and a combination of several different roes.

Store caviar in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 26 degrees to 36 degrees. Once opened, it should be consumed within a week. You can store an unopened tin of fresh caviar for 2 to 3 weeks, while pasteurized caviar can last for 3 to 4 months before opening.

When serving, choose bowls and utensils made on nonreactive materials such as glass, plastic, or wood. Traditionally, caviar is served with tiny gold or mother-of-pearl spoons. Always avoid using easily oxidized metals, such as silver or inexpensive stainless steel, which will react with the caviar, giving it a metallic taste.

A final note: Caviar should not be cooked or it will toughen dramatically. If using it in a recipe, always add it toward the end of the preparation, or as a last-minute garnish.

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