Some piscivorous gourmands think that oysters are not best when quite fresh from their beds, and that their flavor is too brackish and harsh, and is much ameliorated by giving them a feed.
Cover them with clean water, with a pint of salt to about two gallons (nothing else, no oatmeal, flour, nor any other trumpery); this will cleanse them from the mud and sand, etc. of the bed; after they have lain in it twelve hours, change it for fresh salt and water, and in twelve hours more they will be in prime order for the mouth, and remain so two or three days: at the time of high water you may see them open their shells, in expectation of receiving their usual food. This process of feeding oysters is only employed when a great many come up together.
Common people are indifferent about the manner of opening oysters, and the time of” eating them after they are opened; nothing, however, is more important in the enlight ened eyes of the experienced oyster-eater.
Those who wish to enjoy this delicious restorative in its utmost perfection, must eat it the moment it is opened, with its own gravy in the under shell; if not eaten while absolutely alive, its flavor and spirit are lost
Shell-fish have long held a high rank in the catalogue of easily digestible and speedily restorative foods; of these the oyster certainly deserves the best character, but we think it has acquired not a little more reputation for these qualities than it deserves; a well-dressed chop or steak, will invigorate the heart in a much higher ratio; to recruit the animal spirits, and support strength, there is nothing equal to animal food; when Kept till properly tender, none will give so little trouble to the digestive organs, and so much substantial excitement to the constitution.
Take fine fresh oysters; wash them in their own liquor; skim it; pound them in a marble mortar; to a pint of oysters add a pint of Sherry; boil them up, and add an ounce of salt, two drachms of pounded mace, and one of cayenne; let it just boil up again; skim it, and rub it through a sieve, and when cold, bottle it, cork it well, and seal it down.
N. B. It is the best way to pound the salt and spices, etc. with the oysters.
Observations: This composition very agreeably heightens the flavor of white sauces, and white made-dishes; and if you add a glass of brandy to it, it will keep good for a considerable time longer than oysters are out of season.
- The Cook’s Own Book (1832)