It has been over three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf Coast and, in turn, the livelihoods of many. The Alabama seafood industry was practically devastated, but is rebounding with determination and the support of restaurateurs and loyal customers.
Alabama has 50+ miles of coastline bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Add that to our tidal coastline of bays, creeks, bayous, and rivers that touch the tidewater and the coastline grows to 600+ miles. Because of the salty gulf water, Alabama seafood means fish, shrimp, crab, and oysters. The Alabama Gulf Seafood organization has done a great job connecting Alabama fisherman and oysterman with our state’s chefs and seafood consumers. The beautiful images here are of postcards Alabama Gulf Seafood published (and consequently inspired this post).
Alabama gulf oysters are rich in iron and high in protein, with a slightly sweeter taste than oysters harvested to the north. They can be served in so many ways: fried, grilled, baked, and, our favorite, raw. Below is our favorite way to savor Alabama’s gulf oysters.
ALABAMA GULF OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL
Alabama Gulf oysters
Make sure you are properly shucking your oysters. You will need gloves or a thick kitchen towel and a sturdy oyster knife. Clean your oyster, then insert the knife into the hinge, then twist until it pops open. Then, you will carefully pry the oyster open and loosen the meat with your knife. Alabama Gulf Seafood provides a handy, step-by-step guide for shucking here.
Be careful not to pour out the liquor. This is actually filtered sea water from where the oyster lived and it is very flavorful. All oyster connoisseurs have their own recommendations – sipping immediately before eating the oyster, immediately after, or having some before and the rest after – but everyone agrees that it is essential to tasting an oyster. Note: If your oysters don’t have any liquor, then they likely aren’t very fresh.
You should chew the meat to savor the sweetness of the meat. If you simply swallow the oyster, you are missing out on most of the rich gulf flavors.
It is okay to add a little lime or lemon before eating. But, just as you wouldn’t ruin a grass-fed steak with steak sauce, don’t mask the taste of your oysters with sauces, horseradish, or cocktail sauce.
Also, did you know that oyster shells are good for your garden? The shells are high in calcium and help balance your soils pH. Save the shells from your next oyster party and add them to the compost.
However you enjoy your seafood, we hope that you are supporting the Alabama gulf seafood industry or your own local gulf fishermen. For more information on where to find gulf seafood recipes and to learn more about what our Gulf Coast has to offer, visit Alabama Gulf Seafood.
Photo of oysters by Jason Wallis
All other photos by Wes Frazer