The Scandinavian oyster (Ostrea edulis) is the round-shelled belon, and this is what our oyster shell-middens consist of. Pollution, bad management and overfishing have reduced the native population, however, so most oysters are imported.
Nevertheless, the population of the native oyster is on the rise once again, and as it is much fleshier and in most people’s opinion superior to the imported Pacific oyster, it is good to have the choice. There are not many wild oysters to be had, but oysters have been farmed since Roman times.
Appearance and taste
A shucked oyster in its prime should have a visible beard ands a light brown or greyish color with a white muscle. It should have a good, clean flavor and be firm and juicy. Oysters contain water, which you either drink, while eating them, or put into any dish with them. The liquid gas a refined sea-breeze quality that you don’t want to miss.
Native oysters spawn in the summer and are usually not eaten during that time, but other, farmed species are available all year round. There is a great difference in the taste and consistency, depending on whether or not the oysters have spawned; before spawning they are fat and firm, while afterwards, in the autumn, they are thin and exhausted – both have their dedicated fans.
Buying and storing
With oysters, you must trust your fishmonger as there is no way of telling how fresh they are, or how long they have been kept out of water. Make sure that they smell fresh and are tightly closed.
Oysters can be stored alive in the fridge for a couple of days, in the container they are bought in, though they lose taste and precious water with prolonged waiting.
Related: Scandinavian salmon
If eating raw, live creature seems too much for you, try them in a delicious fish soup or grill them for 3 minutes with a blob of hollandaise and a dusting of breadcrumbs. Warm oysters are lovely, and the gentle way to set your mind at ease while getting addicted to them.
To eat raw, serve with butter, good toasted bread and lemon. Six oysters per person for a first course.
Related: Norwegian Crow’s Balls
How to suck an oyster
Oysters have a flat and a rounded side. Rest the rounded side in the palm of your glove-clad hand and using a short, thick-bladed knife, either cut the valve or tweeze the blade between the two shells at the other end and, in order to cut the stool (the muscle that keeps the shells together).
Remove the flat shell. This operation admittedly takes the nerve, patience, practice, and possibly, the odd plaster. Put your nose to every oyster; it should smell like a swim in cold salt water. If it doesn’t discard it.
Rest your shucked oyster in the deep shell on a bed of crushed ice, or seaweed, so the juices stay in the shell. And continue with the other oysters. Any that are not well inside should be rejected. Once shucked, the oysters should be eaten as quickly as possible.
Scandinavian Oyster, written by Tor Kjolberg