I've gotten a lot of questions about culling. Essentially, we're sorting the oysters but there's a lot more to it than that. At least, it feels like there's more to it since we spend 4 hours a day doing it while standing on our feet. We have a couple of tools, like the three-inch ring, a flathead screwdriver, and our gloves (which are thick and lined for the winter; in the summer we'll wear a lighter pair). Music fuels us, as does a mid-morning coffee break; we do what we can to break up the monotony of moving oysters from one place to another. As for the cull, we're looking for size, cup depth, healthy oysters (any that are nicked or broken go back to the water to repair themselves), and of course, funky stuff (ie: the two-minute time waster). When you tip over a crate of oysters, you'll get about 200 bivalves plus a dozen other odds and ends on the table. Stringy, brown, mud-caked seaweed, neon-green kelp, quahogs, scallops, hermit crabs of every shape and size (they've been turning up a lot lately), broken-off horseshoe crab tails and shells, live spider crabs (A2 hates those), an occasional piece of garbage, and even the lonely chicken bone. Yesterday we turned up a tiny flounder. Today, we found a heart-shaped oyster, my second since starting on the farm.
One of the perks of this job, as Skip reminded me yesterday, is that I get to take home as many oysters as I can eat. I brought home about a dozen and a half for Dave and I to snack on before dinner tonight. Besides a stellar, interactive appetizer, it gave me time to practice my shucking skills.
Over our oysters, we chatted about my total lack of skills.
Me: I think maybe I'll finish up the year and then go work as a shucker at an oyster bar. It could fulfill that "working in a restaurant" urge that's been nagging me for awhile.
Dave: Yeah, well, you should probably see how this year goes first. I mean, of all the possible options you have ahead of you, working in an oyster bar has never really come up before.
Me: Yeah. I guess I should learn to shuck oysters well first.
Dave: Or you could just go back to being a writer... you know, like you always wanted to be.
Me: (slurping back my 8th oyster) Riiiggghhhttt.
I'm starting to get the hang of shucking even though I cut myself once. We whipped up the Island Creek mignonette and put the puppies on ice. I was drinking a Harpoon Quad (courtesy of our pal Liz who smuggled a few bottles into Highland Kitchen for us when we met her and Adam for dinner there last week) and really liked the dark, Belgian-y style with our oysters. That heady maltiness really punctuated the the sweetness of Island Creeks. I strongly recommend it. And speaking of strong, the Quad is a killer at 12%. Consume sparingly.
One last note: I'd love some more tips on where to find Island Creeks (or any really truly spectacular and way-above-average oysters out there). I'm going to try and amp up the Eating. Oysters. section so if you've got them on your menu or want me to put an idea out to the world, please send them my way: murray.erinb at gmail.com.