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Food and Wine Dictionary

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Any of a large variety of CRUSTACEANS (animals with a shell) with 10 legs, the front two of which have pincers. Crabs are noted for their sweet, succulent meat and are the second most popular shellfish (after shrimp) in the United States. There are fresh- and saltwater crabs, the latter being the most plentiful. The major catch on the Pacific coast is DUNGENESS CRAB, from the North Pacific come the KING CRAB and snow crab, along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts it's BLUE CRAB and Florida waters give us the STONE CRAB. Hard-shell crabs are available year-round in coastal areas. They're sold whole (cooked or live), and in the form of cooked lump meat (whole pieces of the white body meat) or flaked meat (small bits of light and dark meat from the body and claws). Always sold whole, SOFT-SHELL CRABS — in season from April to mid-September (with a peak in June and July) — are blue crabs that have shed their hard shells. All live crabs should be used on the day they're purchased. Refrigerate them until just before cooking. Cook raw crabmeat within 24 hours after the crab dies. Crabmeat is also available frozen, canned or pasteurized (heated in cans at a temperature high enough to kill bacteria, but lower than that used in canning). Pasteurized crabmeat should be stored unopened in the refrigerator for up to 6 months and used within 4 days of opening. Whole crabs and crabmeat can be cooked in a variety of ways including frying, steaming, broiling or in soups, GUMBOS or CRAB CAKES. Crab ROE, available only in the spring, is a prized addition to the South Carolina specialty, SHE-CRAB SOUP. For information on specific crabs, see individual listings. See also shellfish. 

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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