The Star Democrat
Abundant oysters — an Eastern Shore delicacy
Oysters are currently abundant on the Eastern Shore and our watermen are hopeful this will make up for the past several years of hard work with little productivity. Today I want to go back in time to a column I ran in this paper on Jan. 22, 2020. It is one of my favorite columns and I hope you enjoy it once again. In the meantime I am enjoying a brief break and will return Jan. 12 to begin my almost 40 years of doing this column that I dearly enjoy.
Having lived on the Eastern Shore all my life, the oyster has been a much-appreciated seafood in my life. My mother made some of the greatest tasting oyster fritters on the Mason Dixon line. There is no waterman in my family, but we lived close enough to the water to respect the life of the waterman and the delicious delicacies which were a result of their hard work. The Chesapeake Bay has been home to oystering since the early 19th century. Chesapeake Bay skipjacks are the last commercial sailing vessels in the United States. The dredge boats once numbered in the thousands. Today only about a dozen or so remain. Skip jacks are limited to 150 bushels of oyster daily. The dredging season runs from November thru March 1. Here are some of my favorite oyster recipes that hopefully will become yours too!
EASTERN SHORE OYSTER FRITTERS
Drain 1 quart of oysters, reserving the juice, and set aside. Beat 2 eggs, add the reserved juice to the egg and add Worcestershire sauce to taste. Add 1 1/2 cups flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and mix well. Add the oysters and lightly mix. Fry in hot oil browning on both sides. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm. When dropping the fritters in the oil make sure you have at least 3 oysters to a fritter.
There are several ways to make oyster stew — some just oysters with milk and some with onions and parsley. I will share my very easy way to make a tasty stew with you.
TRADITIONAL MARYLAND OYSTER STEW
In a large saucepan cook one-pint fresh shucked oysters, with juice, over low heat until edges begin to curl. Add 1 quart of milk, 1/4 cup butter, salt and pepper to taste. You can sprinkle some Old Bay seasoning on top if desired slowly, but do not boil. Serve hot with oyster crackers if desired.
In a greased two-quart casserole place alternate layers of oysters and fresh cracker crumbs, doting each layer with butter. For this process you will need one quart of oysters with liquid, 2 to 3 cups fresh crushed crackers and 1/2 cup butter or 1 stick margarine.You can also sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper to taste. End with a layer of crumbs and pour one to two cups of milk over the top. Dot the top with remaining butter or margarine and bake at 350 degrees until browned, about 40 to 50 minutes. Makes 6 generous servings.
OYSTER POT PIE
In a large saucepan place 5 or 6 diced potatoes, cleaned and peeled, with 5 or 6 carrots, 2 to 3 cleaned and diced onions, 1/2 pound of chopped ham, and 4 strips of uncooked bacon. Cook until don and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes and 1/2 teaspoon oregano. Mix 1 pint crushed tomatoes and the liquor of one pint of oysters. Add this to the already cooked ingredients. Bring to a boil; thicken with some cornstarch.When thick, add the one pint of oysters. Cook until the oyster’s edges curl. Pour into a baking dish lined with your favorite crust and place a crust over the top. Slightly prick the top crust with a fork, bake at 400 degrees until brown.This is so delicious for supper on a wintry day.