Characteristics

1. Oysters have rough, irregular shells.The bottom shell is slightly bowl-shaped.The top shell is flat.

2. The flesh of the oyster is extremely soft and delicate and contains a high percentage of water.

3. Oysters are available all year, even in months without an R in their names, but they are at their best in the fall, winter, and spring.

4. There are four main varieties in the United States and Canada, depending on their origin. Note in particular that the dozens of varieties of Eastern oysters are all the same species; they all have different flavors, however, depending on the environment in which they grew.

Eastern: Known by many local names, depending on their place of origin, such as Bluepoint (Long Island), Box Oyster (Long Island), Chesapeake Bay, Chincoteague (Virginia), Cotuit (Nantucket), Kent Island (Maryland), Malpeque (Prince Edward Island, Canada), Patuxent (Maryland), Apalachicola (Florida), Breton Sound (Louisiana),Wellfleet (Massachusetts). Olympia:Very small,from the Pacific coast.

Belon: European oyster now grown in North America. Shells are flatter than those of Eastern oysters. More properly called European flat oysters, reserving the term Belon for those flat oysters grown near the mouth of the Loire River in France. Prized for their intense, briny flavor.

Japanese or Pacific: Usually large oysters from the Pacific coast.The much smaller kumamoto oyster is of the same species.

St. James River oysters
Pine Island oysters

Figure 14.7 Opening oysters.

Figure 14.7 Opening oysters.

(a) Examine the shell to see that it is tightly closed, indicating a live oyster. Rinse the shell under cold, running water. Hold oyster in left hand, as shown. (Left-handers will hold oyster in right hand.) Hold the oyster knife near the tip as shown. Insert the knife between the shells near the hinge.

(b) Twist the knife to break the hinge.

(c) Slide the knife under the top shell and cut through the adductor muscle (which closes the shells) near the top shell. Try not to cut the flesh of the oyster, or it will lose plumpness. Remove the top shell.

(c) Slide the knife under the top shell and cut through the adductor muscle (which closes the shells) near the top shell. Try not to cut the flesh of the oyster, or it will lose plumpness. Remove the top shell.

(d) Carefully cut the lower end of the muscle from the bottom shell to loosen oyster. Remove any particles of shell from the oyster before serving.

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