1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Oysters BITE! Who knew?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oysters BITE! Who knew?

I'm now in Beaufort, SC, at a lovely spot called Lady's Island Marina. Why lovely? First, it's very inexpensive. They have a free laundry. They have a workshop, with tools, if you have projects that need doing. The local boaters are great folks. Steve and Gloria, who run the place, are equally great folks! And it's right across from some absolutely huge oyster beds that are easily accessible at low tide. And I love oysters.
I've always wanted to try getting my own oysters. I mean, hey, how hard can it be to catch a bunch of brainless bivalves? Really? Fishing now, that's challenging. You can't see them, you have no idea of what bait they'll bite on, and you might not get the fish you want, or get none at all.  Just ask any fisherman. Then you have to clean them and that's always messy. Scales and fishy goop everywhere. And the gear, have you priced fishing gear lately? YOW! For that kind of money, I could be eating filet.
Oystering, on the other hand, is much simpler, right? (you see what's coming, don't you?)
I mean, these things are brainless, they don't move, you just pop them open when you catch them. How hard can this be? And the gear to catch them....a pair of rubber boots (which I had to borrow), some gloves (which I forgot to bring with me), a small garden rake (had that!), and a bucket (had that too!).
Then when you get them back, you need a shucking knife to open them - or a small screwdriver (I didn't have a shucking knife until I bought one today).
So off Aduana and I went, rowing 50 yards across to the mudflats at low tide to hunt the mighty Beaufort Oyster. Aduana, usually the first one out of the dinghy, didn't move. That should have clued me in that something was up.
I stepped out of the dinghy into the mud - perhaps I should say, DOWN into the mud. This mud is deep - it's actually called 'plough' mud - pronounced 'pluff'. Don't ask me why, it's a Southern thing. Nobody but Southerners understand this stuff.
So, hanging on to the dinghy, I put my second booted foot into the mud - and began to worry that I might not ever move those feet again! This stuff is seriously gooey. I had visions of becoming a statue here if someone didn't rescue me - and with 8 feet of tide, that would need to happen soon!
I then reached over to grab a bunch of oysters, seeing visions of beautifully tasty bivalves  on my plate - and discovered that most of the bunch were opened shells with nothing in them. Oysters, you see, grow up in clumps, and as they grow, they abandon the shells they grow out of, so many of the oysters you see have moved on to a new habitation. You're left with a bunch of shells filled with plough mud. Yuck. The original urban decay.
I reached for another bunch of oysters and YOW! The damn thing bit me! And it hurt - lots. And it bled even more.
Ok, the nasty brute didn't actually bite me. Oysters are very sharp with lots of jagged edges and it's very easy to get cut. That's why you use gloves to get at them. I of course had left mine back on Gypsy Wind. Painful lesson...especially after I'd done it a few more times.
So - filled two buckets with oysters - rowed back to the boat, read a variety of recipes on how to eat them, other than raw.  I wasn't quite ready to be that brave. I've heard the stories about shellfish poisoning too. Decided to steam these beauties in water with a good quantity of Old Bay spice - would have used wine but was nearly out of wine. Couldn't use beer, because I was totally out of beer. Poor planning? No. Old Bay is an eminently acceptable substitute - some would say the only thing to use in fact.
But wait! What's this? You have to clean oysters before cooking? What do these things think they are, fish? Found a scrub brush and away we go, scrubbing mud and algae off the oysters. Talk about your nasty, dirty job. I can see why oysters are not cheap when you buy them in a restaurant. This has been nothing but work.
So, once they're presentable, pop them into the colander inside the pot, turn up the heat...wait, while drinking wine. This was the best part - well, almost. Here comes the best part....
Tumble them onto a plate, let them cool just a bit, get out the screwdriver, open them up and
MMMMMMMMMMMM! Tasty? Oh yeah! Ohhhh yeaaaaaaa!
You can see from the photo at the left just what was left - after four batches. And I've still got a half bucket of these tasty beauties left. Tomorrow night, I'm going to try roasting them....