June 20, 2012

Effingham Inlet

With cups this deep, they can't be bad!
Effingham Inlet Oysters -- a.k.a. "Effing Oysters" -- are a unique oyster coming from the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Specifically, they are grown in a glacier-carved inlet (Effingham Inlet, obviously) closer to a fjord than anything else. This environment would serve as a fine example of what pristine can be: the water is deep and blue, the surrounding mountains thickly forested and emerald green, the lease site is only accessible by boat due to the steep sides. All of this has a major impact on the flavor and quality of the oysters grown here, but also on how they are grown.

Like most glacial valleys, the peaks plunge in an almost linear fashion to the very bottom of the inlet, meaning no beaches, not even shallows in which to grow oysters. However, Homo sapiens is an inventive species and the farmers of Northwest Aquaculture were able to develop a series of 26 rafts supporting a suspended-tray system to grow their oysters and mussels, along with an additional raft just for the FLUPSY, and two barges for storage and processing. It is an impressive array, visible even by satellite, and it allows them to grow some amazing oysters (I haven't had the mussels, but I'm sure they're great as well).

(Image by Google)

Effing Oysters are a tumbled oyster, meaning that each oyster is lifted from the water about once a month and put through a tumbler (think about a cement mixer made of wire mesh and you'll have a good idea what it looks like). Tumbling does three things: 1. this process makes it very easy to sort the oysters by size throughout the growing process by simply increasing the mesh size from one end to the other, meaning more consistency, 2. the tumbling action serves to remove barnacles and other unwanted organisms from the shells, and 3. by treating the oysters somewhat roughly like this, the thin, fragile shell edge is broken away, thereby strengthening the shells and improving the cup depth. After each trip through the tumbler, the oysters are given a rest period to allow them to repair their shells before being harvested and sold to restaurants and purveyors across the country. Also, during the warm months, the adult oysters are held deep below the surface before harvest to prevent spawning. 

These are C. gigas oysters, as are most oysters grown on this part of the world, and have flavors typical of the species: plump, buttery-smooth texture, sweet butter lettuce, and hints of salted cucumber. Coming out of the water at 3-4", these are relatively sizable oysters mainly due to the amount of meat held within those deep cups. Northwest Aquaculture also has an option for those put off by a beefy oyster, the Pacific Rim Petite, which has a comparable flavor profile in a smaller package.

If you can find them near you, slurp a few and you won't be disappointed. Order a crisp white wine or a carafe of sake and GET EFFED! 

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