Posts Tagged ‘shucking oysters’

oysters, Taylor Shellfish FarmsI used to loathe oysters–slimy, gray, icky things, cooked or, God forbid, raw. So here I am at Taylor Shellfish Farms, on beautiful Samish Bay, Washington, at an outdoor table with three Pacific oysters set before me, and I’m expected to open their hard, craggy shells, scoop them out, and presumably eat them. Not sure I’m up to this, but I grab my knife, as do the other wary novices in aprons. This may get a bit goopy.

The shells have already been scrubbed to remove mud, dirt and algae. As instructed, I jab the knife into a small opening, push harder, feel for the right spot, and twist. Now I have to sever the top abductor muscle, whatever that is. I find something muscle-like, scrape it, and lift the top shell. As it hinges open, lo and behold, there’s an oyster, slick and briny in its liquid bed. A little worse for the wear, and no pearl, but I’m ready to attack the next one. By the third, I’ve got a system going and I’m a fairly deft shucker, if slow and messy. (To see how the experts do it in an annual competition, check this on youtube.)  Now for the fun part: eating these glistening globs of sealife. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and bravely chomp. Wow, the oyster fans are right. Pillowy, salty, cold, succulent, it’s delicious. Meanwhile, other oysters have been cooking on the barbecue, and they’re tasty too. A good white wine adds to the pleasure, so Taylor Shellfish Farms holds an annual wine competition for Oyster Awards.

Taylor, a family-owned, 4th-generation company, grows and harvests lots of bounty from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest: several kinds of oysters, mussels, clams, and geoducks.  They have 8 locations; this one, south of Bellingham, is open daily to visitors. You can buy charcoal here, pick up fresh oysters, and have a barbecue right by the bay. Or come to a festive event such as the Bivalve Bash, held every July, and be prepared for hilarity.  The bash features a low tide mud run, shell sculpture competition (no shortage here–note the lighthouse made of shells), oyster bar, beer garden, face painting, and oyster-shucking contests. Plus music and dancing.

Now we deal with the geoducks, strange-looking 2-pound mollusks that are subject to many a crude joke. In China they are sometimes called “elephant trunks,” and it’s easy to see why. Geoducks are difficult to produce, can only be farmed in super-clean water, and take 4 to 7 years to reach harvest level.  Some grow to 15 pounds, the largest clams in the northern hemisphere. Before my eyes a pro dunks a geoduck into simmering water for a few seconds, pulls it out, slicks off a translucent skin, and starts razoring ultra-thin slices from the “trunk.” She arranges the slices on a plate, and we’ve got sushi that could not be any fresher and tastes light and sweet, with a delicate texture.  Good stuff, as people in Asia know–half of Taylor Farms’ geoducks are shipped there.  Now I know, too, after this royal feast.

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