How to Shuck an Oyster – Getting into the meat between the shells of Crassostrea virginica
1 – Clean the oyster with a stiff, wire brush under cold running water.
2 – Using a glove, or a towel, hold the oyster cup side down, flat side up, with the point (or hinge side) toward you.
3 – Insert, the oyster knife through the hinge, angling the blade down into the cup of the oyster towards the muscle. When you feel the knife sink in, twist it until you hear the hinge pop.
4 – Scrape the blade across the top of the shell (similar to filleting fish) by rotating the oyster until the adductor muscle is on the far side of the shell, away from you.
5 – Rotate the oyster so the adductor muscle is now directly in front of you again, sliding the knife under the muscle to loosen the meat. Check for any shell or grit. Settle the bottom of each shell into a bed, of crushed ice and serve immediately.
Eating oysters has always seemed to me to be a bit of a contact sport. Or maybe just a rub-up-against-yu kinda sport. It has sybaritic overtones. It’s sensuous and self-indulgent.
I’m not surprised that oysters are said to be an aphrodisiac, something to do with amino acids, zinc content and the flush of hormones, especially testosterone. A female oyster can produce 100 million eggs in a breeding season and legend has it that the frisky Casanova started his day with 50 oysters. I hope his results were enough to overcome the heart-burn.
Besides serving great seafood, my favourite land-locked oyster bar has a kind of flirtatious atmosphere. An atmosphere conducive to loosening the hard shell relied upon for providing protection from predation. When I am there, I move, as it were, from brackish to a little salty, consuming Malpeques, Bluepoints and Kusshis all the while. And the gentleman’s washroom is a veritable den of iniquity. Clean and tasteful to be sure, but the privy of a libertine nonetheless. I have been there. In fact, I bought the T-shirt, which states clearly
“Shuck me, Suck me, Eat me raw”
Oysters go with Champagne, coarse pumpernickel and the pungent root of the horseradish. Why then do I muse on Aphrodite and her Roman sister Venus? This symbolic image by the French painter Odilon Redon gives me a clue.
There is such scintillating fun about it all. Such a good vibe. Overtones of mischief, insinuation and great drama flutter about the outskirts of oyster culture. The oath of the Prince Edward Island Oyster Society may be a tad tongue-in-cheek, as is the unseemly, urban appropriation of the term “Salty Kiss”, but there’s some serious shucking going on. Aquaculture is a big business and farmed Canadian oysters are worth millions.
So pick up a few oysters, shuck off your inhibitions and get out your knives, always wear a glove (or towel) and get into it.
If you go…
You’ll need the comprehensive “Oyster Finder” to navigate all the names from Puget Sound to Tatamagouche. Here is a list of oyster-related restaurants on Prince Edward Island. Ask for a “Fat Bastard” on Granville Island in Vancouver, and Toronto has a number of good oyster houses including Starfish and Rodney’s. To bolster your shucking confidence, you might want to freshen up with a shucking video.