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Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to Handle and Prepare Unshucked Oysters in the Shell

First, handle very carefully with gloves at all times.

Second, there are five things that can be done with unshucked oysters.

1. Shuck or open them fresh.

2. Bake them in the oven, ready to eat.

3. Barbecue them, ready to eat.

4. Steam them open, ready to eat.

5. Steam them open partially cooked then finish by preparing by stewing, frying, etc.

First, it may be necessary to cull or break apart the oysters if they are in clusters of more than two or three. If you will notice, the backs are usually joined together on a dead shell. That's the seed shell on which the baby oysters cemented themselves to as free-swimming larvae. Use a bar to break this seed shell or to pry oysters apart at this point, down to singles or doubles.

1. Shucked Oysters. It is very hard to shuck oysters. Knife and shell cuts can happen easily. However, if you are daring, here's how. A regular oyster knife is required. Sharpen to a point and cut a cutting edge on both sides, up one full inch from the point. The oyster has a back, where the hinge or pointed end is; a front, the rounded end; a top, the flatter shell; a bottom, the more cupped shell. Using a pair of pliers, break off a half-inch or more of the front shell. This will create a small gap between the top and bottom shell, just enough to slip in the knife. Now that the tip of the knife is in the oyster at the front, wiggle and slide it toward the center of the oyster. There is a muscle attached at the middle to both the top and bottom shells. When you cut the muscle, the shells will easily spread. Then finish prying them apart and cut the oyster completely off the shells. In order to not cut up the meat then you slide the knife inward, slide close against the surface of the bottom shell so as not to murder the poor creature, that is until you are ready to cook them or just "eat 'em alive". Next, wash off the meat and refrigerate or freeze. For complete detailed tutoring, visit your local oyster farm..

2. Baked Oysters. Wash off the shells, place on a cookie sheet to catch the liquid and bake at 500 degrees for 15-35 minutes, depending on the size. Some shells will not be opened, so some prying will be necessary. You may eat them plain or dip them in a favorite butter sauce. HINT: Oysters cooked "cup up" will hold the liquid, making a jucier meat. "Cup down" results in the juice draining out, causing a drier oyster.

3. Barbequed Oysters. Wash the shells and place "cup up" on the barbeque for 15-45 minutes, depending on oyster size. Watch for oysters starting to open to indicate doneness. Again, some shells will not be opened, so some prying will be necessary.

4. Steamed Oysters. Wash the shells and place in a steamer for 10-20 minutes, depending on size. You will notice some oysters opening and that should indicate doneness.

5. Partially Steamed then Fried or Stewed Oysters. Wash and scrub the shells very good if you plan to save the nectar. Place oysters in a pan and steam using the usual steaming methods. After most of the oysters are open one-half inch, remove the meat. Either prepare and cook in the usual methods or freeze until later.

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