Celebrate Oyster Season With This Classic Recipe

Celebrate Oyster Season With This Classic Recipe

The 2016-2017 shellfish season starts October 1, 2016. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

The 2016-2017 shellfish season starts October 1, 2016. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

In honor of shellfish season, starting in a few short days, we’re pulling some oyster recipes from the vault.

Over three decades ago, the agency that would one day become the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) did something unexpected: they published a cookbook. The South Carolina Wildlife Cookbook was chock full of family recipes for all manner of wild fowl, game, seafood, and other “unusual but good” eats that could be gleaned from the state’s rich natural resources (ever tried snapping turtle or gar?).

Who better to judge good cooking, perhaps, than the biologists and game wardens who devoted their lives to the creatures featured in each recipe? 

Heavy on creams, cheeses, and processed ingredients, the cookbook captures some food trends that are no longer popular in the more health-conscious present. But throughout the shellfish season, we’ll share some traditional recipes that have never gone out of style – like this classic submitted by now-retired game warden Ben McC. Moïse.

A beautiful, briny South Carolina oyster (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

A beautiful, briny South Carolina oyster (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Pickled Oysters

Smug purists will quickly proclaim that the best way to eat oysters is raw on the half shell, freshly plucked from their briny beds. They are probably right. But South Carolinians also delight in oysters as a pickled hors d’oeuvre. The one disadvantage of this recipe is the virtual impossibility to fix enough of it.

3 dozen fresh medium oysters
3 or 4 cups rapidly boiling water
1 medium red onion
2 red cayenne peppers
½ tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 whole bay leaf
½ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
Tabasco sauce

Shuck oysters and plunge them into boiling water. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let them sit for about five minutes before draining oysters in a colander. Thinly slice onion and separate the slices into rings. Cut peppers in half length-wise. Flatten and scrape out all the seeds and pulp. Cut the peppers into long thin slivers. Begin layering in a pint jar the oysters, the onion, and the hot peppers, along with about one-half tablespoon of whole peppercorns. Place a whole bay leaf about halfway up the jar. When the jar is full or as full as it’s going to get, pour a mixture of the vinegar, salt, and a dash or two of Tabasco.

Hide the jar in the very back of your refrigerator for at least three days and get ready to pick some more oysters for another batch. The first jar is not going to last long.

Ben. McC. Moise
Charleston

 

What's your favorite way to prepare oysters? Do you buy them from a local seafood market or (bonus points) collect them yourself? 

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