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Oysters, Cheese and Sauces - who knew but chefs, fishmongers and dairy people?

Beach Oysters - Photo Sawmill Bay  Shellfish Co.Oysters, Cheese and Sauces - who knew these things but chefs, fishmongers and dairy people?

I was reviewing my to-do list of items I  said I would follow up on from previous stories.  In reverse chronological sequence, these are three of the items.

1. Oysters: After recently eating oysters at Cork and Fin, I was curious about the effect of different methods of cultivating oysters.
2. Cheese: Our recent tasting of Soft-ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses had prompted questions from our tasters like  "how are Camembert and Brie different anyway?"
3. Sauces: And way back in April when we were cooking low carb dishes and I made a Mornay sauce to accompany shrimp, I promised to summarize different sauce names for the non-chefs among us who don't remember the difference between Bearnaise and Hollandaise.

So here goes with some foodie trivia:
Part I: The appetizer - Oysters:

Read Island Gem - Photo Sawmill Bay  Shellfish Co.When our server at Cork and Fin mentioned that Read Island and Sawmill  Bay oysters were the same species but grown differently, I realized how ignorant I was about the various oyster names that appear on a menu and wanted to find out more about  oyster and oyster culture. Here is what I gleaned from the websites of the BC Shellfish Grower's Association and the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance.

Sawmill Bay GemOn the Canadian West Coast the primary species farmed is the PACIFIC Oyster (Crassostrea gigas). In Atlantic Canada - New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia - the primary oyster species farmed is the AMERICAN oyster (Crassostrea virginica)– also called Atlantic, Malpeque or Eastern oyster. They quote 2006 statistics - BC produces 60% of Canadian oysters.

The tray system. Photo Sawmill Bay  Shellfish Co.Oyster larvae are collected and kept in a circulating water tank until they form miniature oysters called oyster seeds. When the  seeds are large enough they are transferred into the ocean to fully develop.  They may be cultured in beach or seabed (the oldest form of oyster farming), tube or raft systems. Steve Pocock of Sawmill Bay Shellfish Company kindly allowed me to use pictures from their website to illustrate this story.

At Sawmill Bay on Read Island the oysters are raised in "pristine, glacier-fed waters.  Approximately half of their production are beach oysters, that "feed with the ebb and flow of the tides" thus spending part of their life out of the water. Those are the Sawmill Bay Beach (6-8 cms long) or Beach Gems (5-6 cms).

The Read Island and Read Island Gems are raised in a deep water tray system so they are continuously immersed, and have a milder sweeter flavour than the beach oysters.

I wondered whether the Gems were smaller because they were harvested earlier but according to Steve Po cock "the gems are generally a younger oyster ---but some oysters are quicker growers than others just like us humans and so age is not the whole answer."

As my fingers walked or maybe danced around the net I happened on a neat website called oysterguide. One of the pages is an list of about 200 oyster appellations. I think most were from the States but next time you are at an oyster bar, you can check and see if the critter you are eating is on the list - and then see where it came from.

Well I ran out of time and space so Sauces and Cheese will get a posting to themselves. Watch this space.

Part II: The entree - Sauces:

Part I: The dessert - Soft cheeses