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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Forget myth; oysters are always in season

Oysters; one of the many bounties of the Chesapeake. Mysterious mollusks whose introduction to the human race was probably at the hands of a river otter banging one open on its chest. I don’t know that this particular version of history is completely accurate, but I’m sure that however it happened, it was a very long time ago.
Either way, oysters are delicious almost anytime, anywhere, or at least that is exactly what oyster lovers such as myself are fond of saying. But, isn’t there a catch, you might ask? Well there is, or at least that’s what old-wives-tales would have you believe.
Have you ever heard the saying that you can’t eat oysters during months that don’t end in the letter “r”? While I have heard this since 1983, it didn’t cross my mind for years how we were still selling oysters in Annapolis during the summer by the wheelbarrow-full and we’re still doing it today. But, how can that be?
You see, red tide is an awful thing; that’s the start to this entire oyster debacle. Red tide is a breakout of algae that the oysters, being filters, bring into their being. As such, the toxins that are either ingested or produced by the oyster become toxic to humans. That’s certainly enough to scare anyone off.
But reality dictates that red tides poisoning can’t possibly be so rampant so as to cut off supplies of oysters to good people like you and me. Rest assured, while there’s always a slight risk of anything in our food chain, the food monitors, to include the USDA and FDA, have strict parameters on levels of red tide and when oysters are too infected to ship.
This is the reason that restaurants are required to keep shellfish tags for 90 days; if someone does get sick, agencies can track down the oyster bed, the date of harvest et al and compare it to databases to see if there was a viable threat. It’s a very complex system that has worked well for decades.
In fact, it’s hard to make your way through town in-season and not see them for sale on every corner. And that’s just the way I like it.
Today in class, we talked about local cuisine, so it was a no-brainer to include oysters. Barbecued oysters are some of my favorites and a student, Josh, made these to perfection. Luckily, I was able to find local oysters that were not too salty, as there is plenty of salt in the bacon.
All in all, there was nothing to correct about the dish, and as I was walking the students through shucking, I envisioned, as I always do, a sea otter banging the thing open with a rock. It’s my happy place. The students should just be happy that I didn’t make otter noises.

BBQ Oysters
Makes 2 dozen
24 Bayside oysters*
Rock salt, as needed
Enough BBQ Sauce to slather (recipe follows)
24 bacon pieces, 2” long

1. Preheat oven to 425F
2. Shuck oysters, reserving liquor for oyster stew or any other application that you might see fit
3. Remove meat from bottom shell so that it is easy for your guests to slide out.
4. If the bacon is thick-sliced, pre-bake it half way to give it a little head start
5. Spoon 1 tsp. of barbecue sauce on each oyster (or more or less per your tastes)
6. Top each oyster with a piece of bacon
7. Bake in the oven until the oysters are cooked through and the bacon has that nice, crispy look
8. Serve on plates of fresh rock salt. Sometimes, I will mix in some whole peppercorns to add some dimension to the plate. That is up to you, since it will only cost you more money
9. Serve with cocktail forks and enjoy
*I recommend less salty oysters here since the bacon will be salty enough. You certainly don’t want an oyster that doesn’t taste like anything, but you catch my gist.
BBQ Sauce
Makes about 1 quart
2 c. Ketchup
1 c. Apple cider
1/4 c. Apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Coleman’s Dry Mustard
6 Tbsp. Dark Brown sugar
1 tsp. Black pepper*

*While I typically type “Salt & Pepper to taste” in my recipes, here I only recommend pepper. There is plenty of salt in the Ketchup and in the bacon as well as the oyster. If you feel that you need to add some to this sauce, please make sure that you do so after the reduction and only then
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a high simmer. Don’t let this come to a full boil as this can scorch the sauce on the bottom
2. Turn the heat down to low (but just high enough so that you still see steam rising from the surface) and allow to cook for about two hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so to ensure that nothing is baking on the bottom
3. When the sauce is complete, simply remove to cool and store in an airtight container for a long, stinkin’ time! The FDA says that anything made in house (served to the general public) will last seven days, but we know better in cases such as these, don’t we?