Does the month have an “r” in it? Must be the season, then.
The season for harvesting is announced by each state and along most of the southeast coast begins mid-September. However, the weather and water temperature determine the actual open or close of each year’s season. The mighty mollusk lives on the bed in shallow coastal waters which rapidly change in temperature and salinity. The home of the oyster defines its taste and establishes its identity in markets or restaurants.
While the season for harvesting usually does include the “r” months, the season for eating can be year-round due to the ability to ship refrigerated products which has not always been the case.
Whether the best-tasting oysters are harvested locally from cool waters during the winter months or whether it’s the only possible time to have an outdoor fire, it’s the best excuse for a gathering. With the oyster as the main attraction, an oyster roast can be found somewhere along the coast on any weekend when the plentiful oyster harvest during the official season provides an economical feast for a crowd.
The Bluffton (SC) Oyster Company is the last remaining oyster company on the South Carolina coast. Situated on the May River in Bluffton, just a few minutes from Hilton Head Island or Beaufort, it’s the site of many roasts as well as the supplier or caterer for those in neighboring communities and backyards.
Steamed or roasted, almost the same really, is achieved by piling oysters on a rack over an outdoor wood fire. Steaming occurs if the oysters are covered with a wet burlap bag. They can also be piled into a large shallow pan and covered loosely with foil on a gas grill. Drawn butter, maybe lemon, and definitely cocktail sauce with plenty of horseradish and saltine crackers are standard accompaniments. Opinions differ as to when they are done. If the shell begins to pop open, it’s usually considered to be done. Some connoisseurs prefer them wet, meaning that they are heated and the shell is just barely able to be opened. Those who prefer their oysters dry will wait for the shell to pop completely open and more cooking to occur.
Everyone who loves oysters and lives along the coast is likely to have a personal oyster knife, plus a drawer full of regular ones in the kitchen for company, too. An upscale personal oyster knife may be purchased in several local gift or jewelry shops where they may be beautifully engraved with logo, monogram or any choice of design.
Beyond the roast, oysters can be seriously dressed up such as for Oysters Rockefeller. For recipes to do-it-yourself and recommendations of the best oyster eating along the southeast coast, grab a knife and check back here soon to let the tasting begin!