Living in Tasmania near the sea as an oyster lover means we can get the freshest and of course when I say fresh I mean live oysters. We shuck our own and it once you do it a few times it is not at all daunting.
If you visit Lease 65’s website there is a lesson on shucking – it is not what works for me as they suggest putting the knife in the oyster at a 2.00 o’clock position, but if you persevere as I did you will soon find your own style.
According to Lease 65 the oyster farm in St Helens Moulting Bay, the local (Pacific) oysters here are known as Pittwater and St Helens.
They describe the taste as initially salty followed by a sweet citrus rush aftertaste. I find that taste varies, depending on the weather. It is best to buy them when the water is freezing and I always ask for small ones over the big fat ones. I think they are better for swallowing whole and you get a mix of all the oyster meat in one bite. But each to their own, some people love the big fat and creamy ones.
Reading the book Oyster from Montparnasse to Greenwell Point written by Nicolette Stasko I was amused by the comment she included by British Novelist William Makepeace’s that after eating large oysters in Boston, he felt like he ‘had swallowed a baby’.
According to Stasko, Tasmania’s shellfish industry has a Quality Assurance programme that ensures shellfish are grown in unpolluted waters and so oysters do not have to be purified prior to consumption. All good news as the flavour remains pure.
Lease 65 grade oysters into three sizes – Bistro is the smallest Buffet is the middle size and best seller and Standard is the largest.
I have three oyster shuckers in the drawer to choose from and tested them to find one to suit my style.
The best way is to have a ledge to angle the hinge end of the oyster on. I hold the oyster in my left hand in a tea towel and with my right hand I prize the top shell at the hinge end and then work the knife around the edges and voila! it is open.
I eat mine raw – naturel and when I want to add something else, I cannot go past the Tasmanian Wasabi dressing as a dipping sauce. Having said that I have enjoyed them cooked. In Portugal I had oysters fried in tempura batter and served atop a glass of lemon sorbet. The texture of crunchy batter contrasted with the soft oyster inside, an absolute sensation that tickled my palate. Recently I made a granita of pinot noir and sometimes I just use a high quality cabernet vinegar. Apple goes well and finely chopped green apples and a little splash of good quality apple cider does not mask or take anything away from the oyster.
Poached and steamed oysters are alternatives for the wary to enjoy them and these have converted people who just cannot abide the thought of any uncooked shellfish. But of course it is hard to beat unadorned oysters fresh from the farm with a dash of lemon juice.
The House of Oysters by Bernard Lloyd is an oyster lovers guide with 60 recipes by Australian chefs.
Photography by Paul County and Nick Osborne 2011
Available at www.tasfoodbooks.com
Oyster from Montparnasse to Greenwell Point by Nicolette Stasko 2000
ISBN 0 7322 6802 8
If you adore oysters then this blog may interest you. I follow In a Half Shell on Instagram.