How to open an oyster
Firstly, discard any oysters that are not tightly closed. Wash and open oyster just before serving. You will need a clean tea towel and an oyster knife (or any sharp knife with a strong, short blade) to open your oysters.
1. Use a folded towel, hold the oyster with the hinge facing away from your palm.
2. Insert the tip of the blade into the hinge. If you are using a normal kitchen knife, HOLD THE KNIFE BY THE TIP OF THE BLADE and NOT by its handle, this will ensure that should the knife slip whilst opening the oyster, you will not cut yourself. By moving the blade side to side the hinge will break open.
3. Remove the oyster from its shell, wash in salted water and return it to the shell.
Live oysters are mainly served raw. As long as you buy oyster from a reputable source, all you need is a bottle of good wine and some sauce for an oyster feast. Here are some of our favourite oyster recipes:
Garlic Gratin Oysters
- A simple cooked oyster recipe bursting with flavour.
Oysters Rockefeller Recipe
- This is a classic hot oyster dish.
Oysters Casino Recipe
- An ideal oysters recipe for diners that prefer cooked oysters.
Facts about oysters in England
Oysters (or huitres as the French call them) are shellfish native to British waters. There are two different types of oysters, native and cultured. Because of the associated cost of native oysters and their limited availability (only where there is an "R" in the month), most oysters consumed are cultured or grown in local waters in controlled conditions. This provides great tasting oysters that are available throughout the year at affordable prices.
Pacific - Gigas Oysters
Pacific or gigas oysters as they are also known are cultured or farmed. Being native shellfish of warmer waters, the pacific oyster does not naturally spawn or breed in local waters as the temperature required to start this process is not reached under normal climatic conditions. Breeding is induced by warming tanks of sea water to the required temperature and adding mature oysters. Once the oysters have spawned, the warmed water containing the pelagic spat (immature oyster) holds the microscopic oysters in suspension until sufficient calcification or shell has formed, giving the oyster enough weight to fall and settle out on to catchment mats located on the base of the holding tanks.
Once the oysters are of collectable size (5mm) they are held in suitable containers and regularly graded and re-housed in plaited sacks and placed in deeper water to grow on to marketable size. This process will take around two years with the eventual weight of saleable oysters being around 80 to 100g.
Water quality and available nutrients are very important in the growth of oysters; being a bi-valve and filtering sea water to provide food for growth, the location for oyster beds is critical for healthy growth. The crystal clear waters surrounding Cornwall are well known for their quality and make an ideal habitat for immature oysters.
Native - Helford Oysters
The native or flat oyster as they are also known are indigenous to local waters and have been harvested for hundreds of years, providing an invaluable source of high quality protein. Cornwall is renowned for its "Helford" oyster fishery that is operated within the river Fal close to Falmouth.
This ancient fishery is almost unique, in as much as the only motive power used to catch the oyster is "oar or sail". The fishery is tightly controlled by the issue of licences, the months of the year, days of the week and hours of the day that fishing is allowed. A minimum landing size also protects immature fish, thereby ensuring the fishery for years to come.
Native oysters are in prime condition when there is an "R" in the month; September to April being the winter months when the oyster is plentiful.