In Season in Winter:
Jump to:- Buying
& Storing Oysters |
and cooking Live Oysters | Editor's
Choice Top 3 Winter Oyster Recipes
Main Winter Seasonal Page
Pacific (rock) oysters are available all year, British native oysters are in season and at their best from October to April.
Although overfishing in the 19th century brought British native oysters to near extinction,
they are now protected by laws in an attempt to restore their numbers. They should
never be eaten during months which contain no "r" in their spelling i.e. from May to August
because at this time they're
spawning, however it is better not to gather them until October when they’ve
plumped back up again.
Native oysters have flatter, round shells and are graded
with 1 being the largest. They can take five years to reach full size - two
years longer than
rock oysters - which explains the big price difference.
Nutritionally, oysters are high in protein, low in fat, and contain minerals
such as zinc, calcium, iron, copper, iodine, magnesium and selenium.
Buying and storing fresh
Oysters should always be bought live. Choose specimens whose shells are clean
and bright, tightly-closed and unbroken. They should feel quite heavy as they
should be full of liquor. Once opened, any specimens which look blackish or
shrivelled with little liquor should be rejected. A prime oyster should be
firm textured with a light brown or greyish colour, a white muscle, juicy with a
fresh briny odour.
Bear in mind that size and shape vary considerably although in general. Pacific
or rock oysters tend to have a frillier shell and smaller, milder meat than the
superior British native oyster.
Live oysters can be stored for a short time on ice, on a damp cloth or in the fridge covered in wet kitchen
towels, for a couple of days.
Do not store in an airtight container or in fresh water as this will cause
them to die. All Oysters should be kept with the rounded part of the shell
Shucked oysters i.e. oysters which have been removed from their shells, can be kept refrigerated in a sealed container for four or five
days. They can also be frozen although these are best for cooking rather
than eating raw.
Preparing and cooking fresh
The act of opening oysters is
called shucking and requires practise and patience until you get used to
it. It's also easier if you have a special oyster knife although a a wide,
short, sturdy screwdriver also works. To shuck an oyster, you need to
protect your hand with a work glove or hold the oyster in a folded tea
towel - deeper shell
downwards - then insert the
oyster knife between the two halves of the shell
and gradually prise apart, working your way around to the hinge. Work over
a large plate so you catch as much liquor as possible. Alternatively, you
can ask your fishmonger to open them for you, requesting the shells and liquor
Raw oysters are best with a squeeze of lemon juice or a couple of drops of
Tabasco sauce. They can be cooked in many ways including grilling, poaching,
baking, steaming and boiling.
Editor's Choice: Top
3 Winter Season Oysters Recipes