What Kinds of Oysters Can You Find In Your Neck of the Woods

, a local food expert for About Food shares these tips about types of oysters available for the picking.

A person used to be able to simply order a dozen oysters. No more. Raw bars present patrons with lists of dozens of oysters to chose from. Wellfleets are prized in New England, New Yorkers love their Blue Points, and Kumamotos rule on the West Coast. Yet there are just five species of oysters harvested in the U.S., all other differences come from where they live, the water they filter, and how they’re handled.

Their taste, in the end, is local.

Whether you’re headed to a raw bar or to the market, this guide will help you decipher the world of oyster labeling and oyster types. Looking to prepare them at home? See How to Shuck Oysters and Sauces for Oysters on the Half-Shell. Or, perhaps you’s prefer to cook them? Grilled Oysters are a favorite of mine.

pacific-oysters.jpg - Photo © Molly Watson
Pacific Oysters. Photo © Molly Watson

1. Crassostrea gigas – Pacific Oysters

Pacific oysters are small and sweet and the world’s most cultivated oyster. They are growing in popularity in both Europe and the West Coast, where they are starting to over-run the native Olympia (below). Pacific oysters used to be used to describe all small Pacific oysters like Kumamotos and Miyagis. Kumamotos, however, were found to be their own species (below). Pacifics have a distinctly more fluted, sharply pointed shell than Atlantics or European flats.

Today, Pacifics are usually named after where they are grown, such as Totten Inlet and Fanny Bay, but some are trade names such as the justly well-known Sweetwater oyster from Hog Island Oyster Company.

 - Photo © Molly Watson
Kumamoto Oysters. Photo © Molly Watson

2. Crassostrea sikamea – Kumamoto Oysters

Kumamotos are small, sweet, almost nutty oysters characterized by their deep, almost bowl-shaped shell. Like Pacifics, they have deeply fluted, sharp, pointy shells. They spawn later and in warmer water than other oysters, so they remain firm and sweet well into summer months. Kumamotos are widely cultivated in Japan and the West Coast. The name Kumamoto is so valued that Kumamotos are always labeled as such, although some places will also specify where they are from.

Kumamotos used to be lumped in with Pacific oysters, but it ends up they are their very own species.

wellfleets-oysters.jpg - Photo © John Burke/Getty Images
Wellfleet Oysters. Photo © John Burke/Getty Images

3. Crassostrea virginicas – Atlantic Oysters (Bluepoints, Wellfleets, and More)

Many people are shocked to learn that Bluepoints and Wellfleets, Malpeques and Beausoleils are all Crassostrea virginicas, as are some 85% of oysters harvested in the U.S. (including most of those in the Gulf of Mexico).

True bluepoints are raised in Long Island’s Great South Bay where they were first found. Today “bluepoint oyster” is often used as a general term for any Atlantic oyster served on the half-shell (i.e. “New Jersey bluepoints” and “Virginia bluepoints”), which, if you know they are all the same species anyway, is amusingly absurd.

Wellfleet oysters are grown in Wellfleet Harbor in the northeastern part of Cape Cod. Enthusiasts correctly detect many differences between oysters grown in different parts of the harbor.

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Looking For Just the Right Gift?

ScreenHunter_202 Dec. 09 21.161115151522aIMG_4220It’s that time of year when everyone is searching for just the right gift to give their favorite oyster lover.  Why not try a unique hand-forged railroad spike oyster shucking knife?  See more information about this process and the knives click here – https://halgonzalesjr.com/blacksmith-and-forge/ or email me at 51gonzo46@gmail.com.

Blacksmith Forging Featured!

IMG_8474Working with a forge is hard work yet rewarding.  Working on new oyster shucking knives and railroad spike knives. See how it is done! For more information, click here  https://halgonzalesjr.com/blacksmith-and-forge/IMG_8482Blacksmith Working the Forge

Know Someone Who Loves Oysters?

ScreenHunter_164 Dec. 01 08.04Now is the time to think about those loved ones who adore oysters and love to shuck there own! With the holidaysIMG_7881 just around the corner, think about some unique gifts and beat the rush.  

Hal, the custom knife-maker and fellow oyster lover, has created a “new” knife never seen in IMG_7875the oyster market. It’s called the “BIG GRIP” for those with larger hands.

Check them out at https://halgonzalesjr.com/oyster-knives/. Just click on the images to enlarge for further inspection.

 

 

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It’s Time For A Crawfish Boil!

Now is the time!

DSCN4657How to Cook Crawfish:DSCN4642

Five pounds per person if that is all you are going to eat!

Place live crawfish in clear water for two hours to allow for purging.

10 minutes before boiling, pour some  hot sauce in water with live crawfish.

Fill pot 2/3 with water leaving enough room to add crawfish. You don’t want to overflow the pot when crawfish is added.

Bring water to a boil adding salt, old bay seasoning, and some liquid heat like “Texas Pete Hot Sauce.” DSCN4653

Add crawfish. Boil in water for 7 minutes until they are dark red.

DSCN4663Optional  – Dust boiled crawfish with some additional Old Bay Seasoning for extra taste when peeling!

How to Eat Crawfish:

Find the biggest crawfish; break in half; suck the head; peel back the shell; pinch the tail; bite the meat; savor the spices; sip a cold drink; and find the biggest crawfish! Continue reading

Chinese BBQ Oysters

It’s time to fire up the grill and welcome spring with BBQ Oysters!
SAUCE:ScreenHunter_368 Mar. 29 09.43
1/4 c. Oriental sesame oil
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh garlic
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 yellow onion, minced
1 tsp. mashed, chopped fermented black beans
1 tbsp. chutney or red pepper jam
1 can or 1 1/2 c. homemade chicken broth
1/4 c. bottled barbecue sauce such as Bull’s Eye
1/4 c. good soy or tamari sauce
3 tbsp. catsup
1 tbsp. honey
Pinch of crushed star anise or Chinese 5-spice powder
“Heat” to taste
Saute garlic, ginger, and onion in the sesame oil.  When golden, add black beans and chutney or pepper jam. Saute briefly. Add chicken broth, barbecue sauce, soy, catsup, honey, star anise or 5-spice, and “heat.”  Heat can be fresh, seeded, minced serrano or jalapeno peppers, Oriental chili paste, cayenne or Tabasco, in approximately order of preference.  You can go a little heavy on the heat, as some of it will dissipate in the cooking process.Cook sauce to desired consistency–not runny, but not too thick. This usually takes 20-45 minutes. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Leftover sauce can be frozen and used later.Spoon sauce, including particulate matter from the bottom, into shucked oysters as they go on the grill (or in the oven) for “barbecuing”; a smokier flavor can be developed in a Weber or other covered barbecue.

In Honor of “Pi” Day, Have Pie, Steak and Oysters!

– IngredientsScreenHunter_359 Mar. 14 09.56

Makes 8 pies
1.5kg oyster blade steak
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, roughly sliced
5 mushrooms
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
2 small bay leaves
cup beef stock
1 can of stout (Guinness)
80g butter
60g plain flour
2 tablespoons Ketjap Manis (sticky soy)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil (evoo) for frying
16 fresh shucked oysters
Pastry shells ready made

Method

– Heat a little olive oil in a large heavy based sauté pan, season the oyster blade and then seal on all sides, cooking the meat in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.
– In a separate pan caramelize the chopped onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Mix the beef and the vegetables together, add the flour and stir for a few minutes until the flour is well distributed, then add the stout, bay leaves and thyme. Lastly add the soy. Put a lid on and put into the oven at 180C for two hours. Use the stock if you feel that it needs to be moistened further, or add during the cooking if it becomes too dry.
– Once cooked, leave the mixture to cool completely – overnight would be best, before you start making the pies.
– Unroll the pastry shell and line small pie tins, half fill with meat mixture, pop in 2 oysters per pie, fill with more meat mixture and then cover the meat with a pastry top. Cut a slit in the middle of the pastry top to let steam escape. Brush the pies with egg wash and into the oven for 15 minutes at 220C then turn the heat down to 200C for a further 10 minutes.
– Do not re-roll pastry tops from scraps of pastry.