Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine
Oysters! Oysters were what Ren and I had on our minds as we waited to board our plane from Deadman’s Cay to Florida. We were both in need of some good old, slimy, snotty, NC oysters, which are a staple of the cold weather holiday season back home. In NC the measure of Winter is not made by the thermometer alone but by the opening of oyster season. When the water in NC gets cold, well, by our thin skin standards, the march smells a certain way. The smell goes from a nice healthy rotten egg, sulfur odor that permeates the air during warmer weather to a green, fresh smell. The air and water are both crisp with a chill. The water becomes super clear as the last mud settles from the summer boating season and the algae stops growing. This is oyster season. This is the season for locals only as all the tourists have left, heading back to their inland homes in Raleigh and Charlotte. This is the season where the local folk get into their single motor boats…or john boats even, slowly putting along to each bank of every shallow, unnamed creek in the marsh for sharp, pointy, projections clustered together and sticking up out of the mud.
Once an oyster bed or accumulation of these bivalves has been spotted the Carolinian slowly lowers his hook (anchor) into the water and steps out into the quicksand mud in white, calf-high rubber boots. These boots are affectionately called Sneads Ferry Sneakers, after a small fishing town just north of Wilmington. If you ever find yourself lost in coastal NC and you spot a big burly man with chest waders and these tell tale white rubber boots, do not be afraid to approach. Although he may have a distinct and intimidating Duck Dynasty look, you have found a friend, this man is one of our people.
The oyster harvester steps cautiously through the muck leaving big symmetrical, horizontal lines in the sand with each footprint. He is careful not to disturb anything other than his target catch. The not-so-wily oyster. Once he spots a cluster of these tasty little animals, he uses a big long screwdriver or a piece of available scrap metal to carefully pry or knock off undersized oysters from the cluster. Alas, the oyster man is left with the ever coveted “single”. Bring a bushel of these “singles” over to a buddy’s house for an oyster roast and people will be serving you up oyster shooters all night. The “single” oyster is a sure sign that the harvester has taken good care of the animal during the harvest. The oyster was further respected through the act of knocking off the undersized oysters from the cluster. In this way the population can be conserved. Only the regulation 3” oyster makes it to the table.
Oh and what a table it will make! Oysters are best enjoyed with a crowd of folk. Wear warm clothes, invite your friends and family and gather around a burn barrel until the oysters are ready to eat. Add a couple of beers, oyster shooters, a pot of chili, cornbread and a few chocolate chip cookies (because they are my favorite) and you have got yourself a good time. You have got yourself a bon-a-fide south eastern oyster roast.
Summers are special. The weather is warm and we humans come out of our Winter hibernations with pale skin and extra fluff around the mid section. We look forward to enjoying the outdoors and moving again, being active. Winter, if played properly, can be just as inviting as warm Summer. Get outside, but stay next to the fire. Enjoy a mosquito free evening with friends. Of course, this is being said from the warm embrace of the Caribbean aboard Nila Girl. It is easy to look back fondly on Winter when it does not have it’s cold fingers wrapped around your throat.
For pictures from an oyster harvest and oyster roast this past December visit Ren’s Facebook album. Don’t forget to “Like” Evolve Freediving on Facebook.
Check out video instructions on how to harvest oysters on Ren’s YouTube channel.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2 cups ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup self rising flour*
1/2 cup fresh chopped jalapenos**
2 cans sweet cream style corn
2 tblsp. vegetable oil
Milk to taste and to consistency
Place vegetable oil in the bottom of a 12”x9”x2” pyrex baking dish. Put oiled pan into oven. Meanwhile mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop the jalapenos in small cubes and de-seed as needed. Add the sweet corn and jalapenos to the dry mix. Don’t be scared of the jalapenos…they are what is going to make the cornbread gooood! MIx ingredients together and slowly add milk to consistency. Not to dry but not watery either. Once oven is preheated and oil and pan are scalding hot, pour batter into pan. If more than 1/4” of oil pools in the corners of the pan us a baster to decant some it off. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 min.
*Use 1tsp. of baking powder if not using self rising flour.
**De-seed to taste. We like things spicy so we use 5 jalapenos and only de-seed two of the five.
When done, eat warm! The oil will add a fried element to the bottom of the bread making it perfect.
An oyster roast favorite. Imbibe with caution!
1/2 pint bloody mary mix
1/2 pint vodka
1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish root
10 shakes of hot sauce
4 shakes of worcestershire sauce
Mix all ingredients above and shake vigorously in a screw-top container. Pour into shot glass, add hot steamed oyster and…Cheers!