Anchovies are an essential ingredient for so many dishes from classic Caesar, to tapenade, to sauces and anything in between. The most common form in which we find anchovies is cured. The curing process can have a great deal of influence on the relative quality of the finished product depending on how fast they are processed and the quality of the salt and oil used.

We carry anchovies that have been cured with salt and olive oil (the most common form); whole salted anchovies; and anchovies marinated in vinegar, which are a bit milder and are somewhat like pickled herring. Marinated anchovies are not typically used interchangeably with the salt-cured variety. The whole salted anchovies are considered by many to be the best. I often just toss them in whatever I am preparing without rinsing, although going through the trouble of rinsing them and removing the tail and backbone is worth it, particularly if they are going to be eaten as-is.

The anchovies that are cured in salt and olive oil (usually filleted) are what we sell the most. Depending on the brand, they can vary in quality, flavor and price. Generally speaking, cheaper anchovies are packed in much larger operations where quality control is more likely to suffer. Cheaper anchovies are often cured with lesser-quality salt, making them intensely salty. The higher-end anchovies we carry such as Agostino Recca and Arroyabe, are more expensive but are some of the best ones available in this country. Their top-quality is evident in their appearance and their flavor. Anchovies should be reddish, indicating that they were processed fresh. Brown or gray colors show that the fish had time to oxidize prior to processing. A high quality anchovy should taste pleasantly salty and balanced right out of the can or jar.

The best deal we have for high-quality anchovies is the twenty-five ounce can of Agostino Recca fillets. It may seem like a lot, but they will keep just about indefinitely in the refrigerator. Once the can is open, simply put the anchovies in a container (preferably glass) and pour the oil over the fish. Simple!