How to choose the right oysters and shuck them at home

If you can't make it to Osoyoos Oyster Festival, follow these tips for an oyster party at home.

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You may have already been to Osoyoos more than a dozen times for its wine, beaches and resorts, but over the next few days, you can add the Osoyoos Oyster Festival to the list of things you have to experience.

Back for the fifth year, the festival offers West Coast oysters, Canadian wines and craft beers--basically some of the best things coming out of Canada.

The festival features a lineup of lunches, dinners competitions and tastings at restaurants and resorts in the area, as well as appearance by Patrick McMurray, world champion oyster shucker (McMurray won the World Championships of Oyster Opening in Galway, Ireland in 2002, held a record from The Guinness Book of World Records for shucking 33 oysters in one minute, and has written a book about oysters: Consider the Oyster - A shucker’s field guide) and the owner of The Ceili Cottage in Toronto.

If you’re lucky enough to be taking a vacation in Osoyoos, don’t forget to look up events happening at the Osoyoos Oyster Festival.

If you can’t make it out the sunny and beautiful B.C. for the event, you can follow these tips and tricks on preparing oysters at home from Shucker Paddy Patrick McMurray and Jon Croft of Codfathers Seafood Market, who supplies the oysters for the event.


Tips from Patrick McMurray on shucking oysters at home

1. Use a tea towel to protect your hand and hold it like you mean it so the oyster does not move around when shucking.

2. Use a good oyster knife--stiff blade, pointed tip-- and shuck through the hinge of the oyster. Torque it,  but don't force it, and be gentle.

3. Keep your eyes on the oyster. Focus, don't get distracted by the pretty people.

4. Shuck in a pie pan, or near the kitchen sink, to keep your station clean.

5. After you’ve opened the oyster, loosen the bottom of the oyster, sweep for grit.

6. Offer the shell to your guest, lip-side towards them.

To get the most out of the oyster when eating, bruise it gently with your tongue, catch your breath (aerate like tasting wine), close your eyes, and think of what you're are tasting--oysters that is.

For cooking, choose big B.C. beach oysters, thrown on the grill in the shell. To go with cocktails, use something with a frilly shell. If you like oysters with sauces, opt for plump meaty oysters. Lastly, if you are an oyster-ficionado, eat them with no sauce or lemon, and choose three-inch oysters with lots of character: flats, Olympia, gigas.


Tips from Jon Crofts on choosing the right oysters

For someone new to raw oysters, pick a smaller oyster with a mellow flavour, such as a tray-raised oyster from the West Coast (West Coast species are milder in flavour and tray raised oysters are living in fresh cool water, so they will also be less aggressive in their flavour and have a more delicate texture).

Choose an oyster which has come from harvest to the store, not one which has been stored for any length of time.This way, the oyster will have retained its natural "liquor", which is the filtered sea water found inside the shell. This helps the oyster keep its beautiful fresh flavour and lustrous appearance. Your oyster purveyor should know the growers, areas and harvest dates of all of their oysters.