Oysters are Still King
Oysters take center stage at three local festivals – and in your kitchen with some delicious recipesOysters are Still King in the Forgotten Coast
By Mackenzie Turberville
Slippery, salty and oh-so-good with a little hot sauce, oysters put food on the table in more ways than one for families in Eastpoint, Apalachicola and St. George Island. According to the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, more than 1,000 people in Franklin County are employed in the industry, and they supply more than 90 percent of Florida’s oysters.
Darren Guillotte, plant manager at Leavins Seafood in Apalachicola, said oyster beds in the area weathered the tumultuous hurricane season of 2005 rather well.
Franklin County Seafood Workers’ Association President David McLain says the good yield owes much to the oyster relay program, which compensates oystermen for transferring oysters from unharvestable areas to more viable ones.
“This is an agricultural activity,” McLain said. “Just like a farmer prepares for the next harvest crop. They’re trying to promote the growth of the bay.”
Three annual festivals held on the Forgotten Coast in the fall celebrate the tasty bivalves.
The Second Annual Oyster Spat Festival will be held Oct. 5-7 on St. George Island. Sponsored by the St. George Island Merchant’s Association, organizers have high hopes that the festival will follow the success of last year’s inaugural event.
“We had a tremendous turnout,” said festival coordinator Charlotte Bacher. “We filled 87 percent of our rooms on the island. Every event was a success.”
The festival features live music and concerts, a 5K run, a parade and fishing. Oystermen will be on hand to give demonstrations and to take people out on boats to show them how the scrumptious shellfish are harvested. Kids can try out their fishing skills in live tanks. The food court is run entirely by charitable organizations, and proceeds go to their respective causes.
Call Bacher at (850) 927-5039 for more information.
The following month, the Third Annual Downtown Apalachicola Oyster Roast will be hosted by the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Nov. 2. The roast features music, dancing, microbrewery beers and wines and, of course, oysters. Call the chamber office at (850) 653-9419 for tickets and information.
The Oyster Roast serves as a kickoff for the oldest seafood festival in the state, the 44th Annual Seafood Festival. The festival will be held Nov. 2-3 in Apalachicola and will provide a wealth of activities, including an oyster eating and shucking contest, a parade, music, arts and crafts vendors, the Redfish Run foot race, the crowning of a King Retsyo (spell it backwards) and Miss Florida Seafood, and a blessing of the fleet. For more information, visit floridaseafoodfestival.com.
Oyster recipes to savor
Oysters can make a healthful addition to your diet as a low-calorie, low-cholesterol source of protein. In addition, they are loaded with zinc and are a source of essential omega-3 fatty acid. And while those with compromised immune systems and certain chronic illnesses are warned to avoid eating raw oysters, they get a green light when the oysters are thoroughly cooked.
Alice’s Oyster Casserole
Courtesy of Leavins Seafood
2 tablespoons butter
1 pint oysters, drained
1 cup half and half
1 tube of saltine crackers
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer oysters in butter until they curl. Add the half and half and remove from heat. Crumble the tube of Saltine crackers and add crumbs to the butter and oyster mixture. Set aside. Spray an 8-inch square casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread oyster mixture into pan and sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake in a 400-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
Courtesy of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing Web sites at FL-Seafood.com and wildfloridashrimp.com.
36 Florida oysters, shucked in the half shell
2 cups Florida spinach, cooked and drained
1/4 cup Florida onion, chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
2 tablespoons Florida celery, chopped
1 teaspoon Florida parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Florida lemon juice
Arrange shells on rock salt in a baking dish. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Process spinach, onion, bay leaves, celery and parsley in a food processor until smooth. In a saucepan, add salt and pepper sauce to spinach mixture and cook in butter for five minutes. Add bread crumbs and lemon juice. Mix well. Spoon the spinach mixture over oysters. Bake at 400 degrees until oyster edges curl. Serves six.