I hope that everyone has been enjoying all of our OYSTER stuff!!! In the “30 Days of Oysters” we have looked at the life cycle, harvesting techniques, issues of water contamination and how it effected our local oyster beds and waterways. We’ve also explored how to eat oysters on the half shell without feeling intimidated. The feature has showcased around 100 pictures of where to eat oysters, where to buy cool themed things and a mixture of other oyster related stuff. But we haven’t talked about one of the most important things of all: HOW DO WE SHUCK?!?!?! There would be no better place to go and find an answer to this question than to one of the coolest and most respected places in town: 167 Raw.
First of all…have you ever eaten at 167 Raw? NO? WTH…seriously?!?!? WHY NOT?! If you like eating any of the following items (oysters, crab claws, fish tacos, lobster rolls, salads with fresh fish, ceviche, shrimp, or if you like buying fresh fish to take home and cook yourself) and you haven’t been there yet, then go get in your car…right now (seriously, like right this minute) and drive down there! Super great food, no nonsense, good stuff, done right, worth the wait and every dollar you’re going to spend! They rock (that’s probably why I can be found there at least once a week)! That’s not a joke or an exaggeration.
LETS GET TO SHUCKING!
I was very excited to learn a few valuable things about shucking and the handling of raw oysters from Sam Norton (a super knowledgeable and nice guy that works at 167 Raw). If you are wanting to eat raw oysters at home and don’t know much about them, here’s the info you need:
- If you aren’t careful about handling oysters then they could be a potential health hazard (we’ve all heard this before) but it’s really important. If you eat oysters that have not been handled properly then there is definitely a risk of contracting food poisoning from pathogenic bacteria, viruses or algal toxins. YUCK. So follow the rules.
- If you want to eat oysters at home (you have to buy them from a reliable and well-respected source)! They need to kept on ice: they’ll be put on ice at the store, keep them on ice in the fridge, leave them on ice while working with them, plate them on ice once shucked. So, I think you get the point->KEEP THEM ON ICE AT ALL TIMES! Before you begin trying to pop open the oysters, give a good rinse with cold water for about 5-10 seconds each.
- Key items you will need to get started: a sturdy oyster shucking knife (to determine how good the knife is, the blade shouldn’t bend when you push on it with your thumb) you’ll also need a towel.
- To shuck the eastern oyster you will hold a towel with one hand with the oyster partially wrapped in it to protect your hand and ensure you don’t stab yourself with the shucking knife. The oyster has a flat side that will be upward facing and the cup side of the shell will be downward facing (this will hold in the juice and protect the oyster) then place the oyster knife in the hinge (this is the part of the oyster that is most tightly joined together and where the muscle is the strongest). Insert the knife and slowly turn it clockwise and then pop it open. Do not forcefully wedge or push the knife in a up and down motion.
- Once the shell has been popped (don’t get frustrated, it make take a few minutes and several attempts), you will then discard the flat shell in a pile (FOR OYSTER RECYCLING! Visit your local DNR website for approved recycling centers, its really important that the shells are properly returned to the water and there is a correct process and science to it, so please take them to the professionals at DNR). Then use the shucking knife to cut the abductor muscle (this is the muscle that connects the oyster to the shell).
- Once they are opened (shucked) they need to be eaten within about 10-15 minutes (Sam suggests eating them as soon as possible, more like 7-9 minutes. He knows his stuff, so I’m taking his suggestion seriously). If they aren’t eaten within a safe period of time, it is very likely you could get sick. Again, YUCK!
- You’re all done…now enjoy all your hard work and start slurping down some tasty oysters!
While Sam was giving me a demonstration about the “how-tos” of shucking, I was really surprised and kind of blown away from his abundant knowledge and shucking skills. While we were talking he shared with me a story about how he came to know so much about oysters. He had been working at 167 Raw for a while and a guest of the restaurant (an out-of-state college professor) came in and wanted to know about the oysters they were serving and he asked some very specific questions. Sam didn’t have a lot of answers for him and so he left that night, determined to never let that situation happen again. He set out to teach himself anything and everything he could find out about oysters. He now knows A LOT, I couldn’t even keep up with jotting down my notes while he was talking about the oyster anatomy (he showed me the 4 gills, the abductor muscle, he explained how things like the build up of plankton effect the shell color and what that means about the surrounding water and flavor association of the oyster and how you can tell how old each one is by the rings on the shell). It was a lot to take in, but really impressive. It was really cool listening to someone who is passionate and knowledgable talk about oysters and share some of it with me. Sam also shared a mignonette sauce recipe that is similar to what they serve at the restaurant, if you want to give it a try then mix the following (and then lightly add to the oyster, which is still in the cupped portion of the shell):
- equal parts: red, rice and white vinegar
- shallots finely cut
- black pepper
- touch of honey
- touch of fresh lemon juice
NOW GET SHUCKING!!!!
167 Raw is located at: 289 East Bay St. Charleston S.C. (843) 579-4997