During the winter months for those who have never had the chance to visit from Oct. 15th through March 15th there is something you need to do. My family tries to get together about once every week or two and roast oysters over an open fire outside over a drum or in an outdoor fireplace. We have some local connections to get them fresh by the bushel. I believe the cost last winter was about $33 a bushel. When I was a teenager, the cost was about $11 a bushel.
Some of you may say, “I have had them in the restaurants steamed.” When cooking and eating them over an open, it is a unique experience BIG difference in taste experience. Here are some tips if you ever want to try it:
Get a bushel of oysters and an old oil drum the with bottom cut out. Stick a few bricks under the bottom edges to raise the drum a few inches. Put small blocks of wood, a few broken sticks and some rolled up newspapers in the bottom of the drum. Next, you need to light the wood and newspapers and get the fire really hot and wait for it to settle down some. Take the fresh, shelled oysters out of the burlap bag and take a pressure washer or water hose and get all of the mud off to the best of your ability. After the fire backs down some and has burned for about 15 minutes or so, put about 35 clean oysters in a wire mesh rack to place on top of the drum with the oysters in it. As the oysters start cooking you will hear lots of popping, cracking and sizzling. This is the sounds of the oysters opening from the heat and the juices flowing out of them and falling onto the fire. About every three or four minutes you need to shake the rack to move the oysters around. Cook the oysters from about 10 minutes or so. Once the oyster shells turn an “ash” color they are likely done.
On the tables you have set up, you should have covered them with several layers of newspapers to absorb the juices. You then will have to pick though the oysters that have the shells open enough to stick an oyster knife in it to pry it open. Have a few different kinds of sauces ready to dip the oysters in. Things we like are vinegar, ketchup, horseradish sauce etc. Dip it in, and open wide!
Depending on how many people you have, depends on how many oysters you will need. Usually, we get a bushel and a half or so for about 6 or 8 people.
Due to the pollution in our rivers and waterways that have increased over the past few years, this practice of roasting oysters is slowly dying. Also, the over harvesting of oysters have really impacted the oyster population as well. Here is an interesting article that was in our local newspaper a few years ago. We all need to be aware that we do our best to help protect our water sources. The locals are all saying that in 10 years we will no longer be able to get fresh oysters out of our rivers. Let’s be able to pass the tradition on for our children to enjoy.