St Helens Oysters, learn to shuck!

Part of the experience we offer of staying with us in our beach house at Binalong Bay is learning to shuck oysters.

Having said that our guests do not always coincide with the best oyster season but when they do, we call in to the oyster farm on the road to Binalong Bay from St Helens to buy un-shucked oysters from Aqa Oysters.

If you visit Aqa’s website there is a lesson on shucking – it is not what works for me as they suggest putting the knife in the oyster at a 2.00 o’clock position, but if you persevere as I did you will soon find your own style.

According to Aqa, the local (Pacific) oysters here are known as Pittwater and St Helens. Aqa, Shed 2, 444 Binalong Bay Road, St Helens 7216. Office
They describe the taste is initially salty followed by a sweet citrus rush aftertaste. I find that taste varies, depending on the weather. It is best to buy them when the water is freezing and I always ask for small ones over the big fat ones. I think they are better for swallowing whole and you get a mix of all the oyster meat and not just a gob full of cream.

But many like them fat and creamy. Reading Stasko’s Oyster book I was amused by the comment she included by British Novelist William Makepeace’s remark that after eat large oysters in Boston, he felt like he ‘had swallowed a baby’.

Visitors finding their style

OK so to date I managed to fob off shucking to others, but today I took a leap forward. I gave myself a pep talk – I am mad if I don’t take advantage of the local oysters to practice and acquire a new skill!

I have three oyster shuckers in the drawer to choose from and tested them to find one to suit my style.

First time shucker

The best way is to have a ledge to angle the hinge end of the oyster on. The raised edge of the sink’s drainer works well, I hold the oyster in my left hand in a tea towel and with my right hand prize the top shell at the hinge end and then work the knife around the edges and Voila! it is open.

Smooth shells

Hinge end

My best results came with the green handled shucker. It is a Bladerunner, Australian made in stainless steel and I bought it at the Log Cabin in Bicheno a beach side town south of here. Log Cabin Store, 59 Burgess Street Bicheno 7215. It is an old-fashioned general store and by the owners admission (Kevin and Sharon Gray) they are dinosaurs so no email or website.

I eat mine raw – naturel and when I want to add something else, I cannot go past the Tasmanian Wasabi dressing as a dipping sauce. Having said that I have enjoyed them cooked. Whilst in Portugal late last year I had oysters fried in tempura batter and served atop lemon sorbet. The texture of crunchy batter contrasted with the soft oyster inside, an absolute sensation that tickled my palate.

From my library in Brisbane I brought down the little book Oyster from Montparnasse to Greenwell Point written by Nicolette Stasko and I have taken it off the shelf for further reading. Although small, the book is brimming with ancedotes, history and carefully researched information. According to Stasko Tasmania’s shellfish industry has a Quality Assurance programme that ensures shellfish are grown in unpolluted waters and so oysters do not have to be purified prior to consumption. All good news as the flavour remains pure. Roz


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