Buying, preparing and eating raw oysters on the half shell can be slightly intimidating for the stay at home cook. Considered a delicacy and sometimes an aphrodisiac, the oyster is an odd food. They look like rocks and you can pick them up at low tide, stuck to rocks spouting barnacles, Whoever thought to crack them open and eat the innards? Hungry folks, I suspect. I'd like to say that everyone should give eating a raw oyster a go, but some may have allergic reactions that can be fatal. Swelling of the throat is the number one symptom. If this happens, seek immediate medical attention.

When selecting your oysters, be sure to ask your proprietor about them. Every container of fresh shellfish should be marked with a tag that tells its place of origin, date of harvest and the license number of the harvester. Origin is important because oysters get their flavor from the water they grow in, so different regions can taste quite different. Harvest date should be considered because fresh shellfish only stay good for about a week (the sooner you eat them, the better). The license number just lets you know that the company is a certified shellfish growing area that is regulated by the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP).

If you aren't sure if the oysters you are dining on are edible, there are a few things you can do to check their freshness.

  • Smell the oyster, it should smell fresh and salty like the ocean. If it has even a hint of fishy stink to it, chuck it.
  • You may have heard that if the shell is open, that the shellfish is bad. This is true, but give the shell a tap with your finger, if it closes, it is still alive and good to eat, if not, Don't eat it.
  • You can also tap the shellfish together, the sound should be like two pool balls knocking together, if they sound hollow, they aren't healthy.
Now, let's scrub them up under cold running water and shuck 'em!

You need:
Oyster knife or sturdy blunt knife, glove or towel.
1) Hold oyster cup side down with hinge exposed in glove hand or in towel.
2) Work oyster knife into hinge gently. You may need to use some force, but be careful, the shells crumble easily, if this happens, just start over next to first insertion point.
3) When knife tip is in place, twist knife handle and pop the hinge.
4) Cut along the underside of the top shell and remove shell. You must use some force for this step, oysters do not like having knives cut them open.
5) Separate body from the inside of cupped shell, remove small shell fragments and enjoy.
Note:Oyster shucking injuries occur.

who knows, you might even find a pearl.

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