If you have made it this far, you either like oysters or are curious.
I hope both.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE oysters and I get the pleasure of living in Maryland where we have access to them during the "R" months fresh from the Chesapeake Bay. The "R" months are the best time to eat fresh oysters and those months are September-March. So why did we have oysters in the summer?
This advice was given long before there was refrigeration in most homes and the concern would be how to preserve them from day to day. This made sense because the oysters could easily go bad if not eaten soon. The preferred months stay the same but eating an oyster in the spring or summer will not get you uninvited to your next dinner party.
Peggy Filippone has this to say about why we eat oysters in those desired months. "Oysters spawn in the warm summer months, usually May through August, although natural Gulfwater oysters can spawn year-round due to the warm waters. Spawning causes them to become fatty, watery, soft, and less flavorful instead of having the more desirable lean, firm texture and bright seafood flavor of those harvested in cooler, non-spawning months."
Maryland oysters are named the Eastern Oyster, also called the Virginia Oyster. In recent years the bay has struggled to sustain the oyster population and our state is working hard to meet the demands set by companies and locals that still desire to partake of this shell fish. The oyster also offers benefits to the eco structure of the bay with their oyster reefs and their built in filtering systems.
At one point in time the oyster beds were so abundant that boats would scrape the top of the oyster reefs in passing. Times have changed. To give you an idea in numbers, I found this stat quoted from the Historic American Engineering Record for JC Lore Oyster House, "In 1885, more than 15 million bushels of oysters were harvested, but by 2004, that number had dropped to26,495 bushels."
Arriving in Maryland was a dream come true. We were finally able to live by water and not just a small seashore, but more miles of seashore than the eastern and western shores combined. The Chesapeake Bay shoreline is a total of 11, 684 miles stretched between 200 miles.
One of the first places we visited was a place called Solomon's Island. Little did we know that this was also home to an earlier oyster business. We learned so much about the industry in the early days. My favorite were the pictures posted on every wall displaying the men and ladies working long hours shucking oysters.
How do you shuck an oyster?
Step by step instructions were written out and followed for every step of the process. The company was concerned about safety and sanitation for the oysters and their workers. Below you can find a general how-to and you better be fast. The workers were paid by the bushel, so the more you shucked the more money you would have.
"A shucker grasps an oyster in his left with its flat shell up, presses it against the table, the hinge end pointed away from him, and inserts the tip of the oyster knife between the shells at the broad end. The knife enters the oyster about one-third of the distance from the bill to the hinge and on the side nearest to the man. This point is opposite the large muscle that holds the two shells together. In the next motion, the muscle is cut, following which the knife is used as a lever and one or the other of the shells is pried off and discarded. Better shuckers employ only six motions in this entire procedure. The oyster, or "meat," as it is now called, is now cut from the remaining shell and dropped into a pail.", the whole article can be read here.
I find the oyster business fascinating back in this time period. It created jobs for the locals, provided a name for the town and food for thousands of oyster eaters.
The company is no longer active but you can eat at the building which once housed the oyster plant. It has been turned into a lovely restaurant and the walls are a history lesson of what took place so long ago.
Oysters are eaten in a variety of ways: raw, fried, grilled, in sandwiches and soups. This is just a few of the many styles that a person can enjoy a delicious oyster. I would not recommend starting with a raw oyster unless you have no qualms about the texture. Most people don't like the slimy consistency that a raw oyster has. A fried oyster on the other hand has the crispy outside, soft inside and that yummy oyster flavor.
My first attempt at eating a raw oyster was a few years ago and my hubby begged me to try them. I believe he thought with wine, chocolate and some oysters he might be in for a grand night…LOL
Oh, and by the way, he hates oysters. So I knew I was on my own and what ever I ordered I would have to eat all alone.
I was worried that I would get stuck with some of the largest oysters that a person has ever seen…I just wasn't sure how this was all going to go down, literally.
To make a long story short, I ate one and then another until the half dozen was gone. I did not think I could eat a full dozen by myself.
I can now say that I belong to the "I ate a raw oyster" club. Your right, that club probably does not exist. DANG IT.
I was surprised that the slimy oyster did not bother me. Along with the oysters, they bring you all types of toppings and sauces. This may be what helped me down 6 raw oysters in one night, heck, in 30 minutes.
Fried oysters are still my favorite and I do make these at home 5-6 times a year. My son used to love them but with puberty he has decided he does not like seafood anymore, so I may not be making them as often in the future.
I usually buy my oysters from a seafood store in the local Annapolis area. They are usually brought in that day. I would suggest you get them as fresh as possible and it is nice to know where they come in from.
The coating on this recipe was created to create a crunchy outside with a soft warm inside, the oyster.
I know that oysters are not for everyone, but for those of us that enjoy them, they can be made at home with ease and good results.
I like to think this is a simply delicious gourmet meal to make in your own kitchen for fans of the oyster.
Recipe: Fried Oysters
20-25 small to medium raw oysters, shucked and cleaned
2 eggs, beaten well
12 Ritz Crackers, crushed (GF crackers can be used)
1/3 cup of corn meal, fine works best
1/3 cup of flour, (GF version, use almond meal)
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
oil, to fry oysters
Combine flour, corn meal, crushed crackers, salt and pepper together.
Prepare your station: oysters, coating and eggs.
In a large sauce pan, add enough oil for the oysters to float and cook. Let them cook for 4 minutes and then flip. Remove from oil and let them cool on a wire rack.
Serve with your favorite sauces. I made a tartar sauce using dill pickles, mayonnaise and red onion.