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Oysters

Long recognized as one of the world's finest oysters, Malpeques from Prince Edward Island have an unequalled taste, superior appearance and excellent keeping quality. Oysters are a versatile seafood. In the shell they can be baked, steamed, grilled or used in specialty dishes such as Oysters Pommary or Florentine. Shucked oysters are excellent deep-fried, sauteed, grilled, in chowders, soups, stews, pies, casseroles, stuffings, dressings, or as an appetizer or main course. The Malpeque is excellent on the half shell, served with nothing but its own liquor. Its clarity and purity of flavour make it the connoisseur's choice.

Oysters Per Serving
Appetizers: 6 oysters in the shell per serving Meal: 1 litre (1 quart) shucked oysters serves 6

Buying
Purchase from a supplier who has a good turnover and keeps oysters chilled at all times. Live oysters should have tightly closed, undamaged shells or, if gaping slightly, should close when tapped. Shucked oysters should have good colour, fresh smell and be packaged in clear, not cloudy, oyster liquor. The odour inside should be pleasant.

Storing
Store in cold environment. Live oysters should be refrigerated (flat side of the shell up) for up to 3 weeks at a temperature of 5 degrees Celcius (40 degree F). Oysters prefer airy packaging; do not store in closed containers or plastic bags. Do not wash shells until ready to use. Shucked oysters can be refrigerated up to 1 week or frozen 2 to 3 months.

Freezing
Do not freeze in the shell. To freeze, shuck and cover with their own strained liquor. Leave 1/2 cm air space, seal container and freeze at -18 degrees C (0 degrees F). Keep frozen until ready to eat, do not refreeze.

Preparation
Brush under running water just prior to using. Do not leave in water. Unless steaming in the shell, the first step in preparation is shucking, or opening the oyster to access the meat.

To Shuck
Protect your hand by wearing a heavy-duty rubber glove or folded kitchen towel. Hold oyster in the palm of your hand, or hold tightly against a hard surface with the cup or deep side down. Keep the bottom shell level to prevent spilling liquor. Locate the hinge and insert a knife between the shells by gently working it back and forth. When the knife is well in, twist back and forth to open. Slide the knife across the top of the shell to cut the muscle and run under the body of the oyster. Spoon meats into a glass container. Strain juices through a sieve to remove any pieces of shell; pour over oysters. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. For presentation in the shell, rinse the shells, setting aside the best shaped (with no chips) for serving. You can also place cleaned oysters in a microwave, flat side up, cook 10-20 seconds on medium. Shuck. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F). Place oysters, flat side up, in oven towards bottom for 30-60 seconds.

On-The-Half Shell
This traditional presentation is simplier if you shuck oysters ahead of time. Place reserved half shells in a bed of crushed ice to hold them securely and keep them chilled. To serve, spoon oyster meats back into reserved shells and divide liquor between them. Malpeques have a wonderful taste when served "as is" or offer just a squeeze of lemon, a drop of hot sauce, horseradish, salt and pepper, sauces or salsas to taste.

Grades: Know What You Buy
Oysters are sold in serveral grades and sizes according to regulations set down by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Theses grades, mainly determined by the size and shape of the individual oyster shell are a good mirror of the content.

1. Fancy or Choice
Top grade oysters, with the best looking shells, ideal for serving on-the-half-shell. These oysters tend towards a rounded shell, with a deeply cupped bottom shell ensuring a full plump oyster.

2. Standard
Tending towards a longer, or more irregular shell shape, these have a distinctive "cup" on the bottom shell, but not as deep as a Fancy or Choice. While an excellent choice for serving on the half shell, these oysters are also excellent for presentations which are cooked, or served with sauces or garnishes. Good value with typical Malpeque taste.

3. Commercial
Uneven shells, flatter then above. Often sold shucked they are ideal for use where the shell is not part of the presentation. Packed in their own juices, or liquor, they retain a natural fresh flavour. Usually a very good buy for an oyster meat which has the same taste and high quality as other grades.

To Eat
Pick up the shell, taking care not to spill the oyster liquor. Bring the broad end to your lips, tip the shell and drink the juices. Tilt your head back and let the oyster slide in. Delicious!!

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