When I saw the original question posted by SmokeyOkie, I grabbed a copy of my Oyster Canning procedure and personalized it a bit, because I was offering to send it to him off line. He hasn't responded but several other have, both in the thread and by e-mail or PM. It is really informal, more like a letter than a public post so forgive me for that. I just don't have time to convert it back to a formal post right now. That four letter word "WORK" stands in my way. For what it is worth, here it is. Skip
After your initial question of: â€œWho knows how to smoke and preserve oysters?â€, you have received many suggestions and ideas about how to cook, doctor up and eventually serve and eat oysters. They all sound delicious, but none seemed to address your actual question. Especially the piece about how to preserve.
Since there are as many ways to prepare and cook Oysters, as there are those that want to eat them, I am not going to even address that. Each person that responded had a great idea that sounded very tasty. I will be trying several of those ideas, myself. But, for this reply, I am going to try to stay on topic and answer the question of: â€œWho knows how to smoke and preserve oysters?â€
In fact, here is something else you said, that is guiding my response and helping to keep me on target: You said â€œHave you ever had those little "Reese" brand "Smoked Oysters in Cottonseed Oil"? â€œThey come smoked in Cherry wood smoke. That's what I'm wanting to emulateâ€.
OK, Here we go. Letâ€™s see if we can get there, from here!! LOL
First off, I usually harvest or purchase in-the-shell Oysters, if I want to steam them, do them on the grill, or follow any of the other recipes, such as those you received from other forum members. But for preserving, I prefer to purchase pre-shucked Oysters.
If you are harvesting the Oysters yourself, you will have to settle for whatever size you harvest. As I said, I usually purchase mine, pre-shucked, from one of the local â€˜Farmersâ€™. This way I can control the size. I like the meat, but not all the stomach â€˜gooshâ€™ that is present in the larger Oysters. This â€˜gooshâ€™ cooks out when using other recipes, but stays in when using this one. Therefore, I always buy pre-shucked, â€œPetitâ€ or â€œSmallâ€, for this method of preservation. These cost a little more but range in size from thumbnail to fifty cent piece. Right in line with what you get when you buy a tin to snack on. If I am forced to use larger, I halve or quarter them and rinse out some of the stomach contents, before continuing.
If using harvested Oysters or if you purchased in-the-shell Oysters, you will obviously need to get them out of their shells. Oysters, can be shucked raw or steamed open. Those that are steamed will be slightly firmer than the raw but otherwise, quite similar in texture and in the remaining process that we are going to follow. Like others have said, you can put raw Oysters on the Grill until they pop but all you have done is open them. Some call that â€˜smokingâ€™ but as you can see, that is far from the fact. All you have done is pop them open. Just like â€˜fell; on ribs, the shell keeps the smoke from penetrating so you really have to shuck first. If you want to eat them now, or fairly soon, then follow one of the many other suggestions, you have already received. If you really want to do what you asked, i.e.( Who knows how to smoke and preserve oysters?), then continue.
Wash the raw Oysters well, but gently, in tepid running water, pat or lay out to air dry a little. Place Oysters in a mixing bowl, generously cover (and slather) in evoo. Hand toss so they are coated well. Make sure the raw Oysters are heavily covered in evoo. This does a wonderful job of catching and holding the smoke.
Prepare smoker for smoking through whatever ritual you use. Place Oysters on a surface that supports them but allows unrestricted smoke flow. I use small patches of Â¼ inch grid, stainless steel screen, called â€˜carpenters clothâ€™. They are stiff, strong, hygienic and fit into the dishwasher when done. NOTE: If you are set up to â€˜cold smokeâ€™, this is preferable. If not, then â€˜Warmâ€™ smoke at the lowest possible temp. Remember, you are not trying to â€˜cookâ€™ the Oysters. You are simply trying to impart â€˜smokeâ€™ to them, prior to preservation.
I like to use chips or quite small chunks for the actual smoke. This is because I am trying to produce smoke and impart it to the raw Oyster, at the lowest possible temp. I donâ€™t want to cook or even dry out the Oysters, so want this process completed fairly quickly, raising the temp of the Oyster meat, as little and for as short of time, as possible. If cold smoking this is not an issue. I usually run just a couple pans of small chips/chunks and get this done within 30-45 minutes, keeping the Oysters in the coolest part of the smoker. My preference is for a fruit wood such as Cherry or Apple, but YMMV.
Optional Step: If you are interested in trying to add any extra flavors, now is the time to do it. Put your smoked, but still raw, Oysters back in a big mixing bowl, sprinkle on a little kosher salt, finely ground or crushed Basil, a little Sage or whatever you think would taste good. Some even add Cayenne, Chipotle, hot sauce, soy sauce or any other ingredient that comes to mind. (Just think of a cooked Oyster, and what you would like to put on it, to get your imagination going). Beware, the herbs will be visible and cling to the Oyster and so you will not only see them and taste them, but you will also feel their texture with your tongue and mouth when eating. Some donâ€™t like this feeling or sensation, so keep this in mind. I normally donâ€™t add anything. I donâ€™t like committing the entire batch to some specific flavoring. If I want to doctor a little, I wait and doctor as I eat. But like I said, this is an option.
Next, prepare your canning jars. You can use any size, but I prefer half pints. This approximates the size of the tin that you normally get, when you buy smoked oysters, clams, sardines, herring, etc., from the grocery store. Fill jars with your now smoked Oysters, leaving at least a half inch â€˜head spaceâ€™. Pour in enough evoo to cover the Oysters, staying below the required head space.
Prepare your home pressure cooker in the standard way.
Place jars in pressure cooker.
Can for 75 minutes at 10-12 pounds of pressure. How you achieve this is slightly dependent upon whether you are using a digital, wiggle weighted or spring pressure, pressure cooker. Note: US Extension Services recommends between 10 and 12 pounds of pressure. Within my state you get various answers, but always within this range. You also need to adjust for altitude. But, it will be somewhere in this range. To be safe, err on the high side, or consult your local extension service to see what they recommend for your area and type of pressure cooker. Since I am at sea level, I usually can at 11 pounds.
After canning, remove jars and let them sit until they cool and seal, with that loveable little â€˜pingâ€™.
SmokyOkie, instead of "Reese" brand "Smoked Oysters in Cottonseed Oil", you now have your own personal â€œSmokyOkie brand "Smoked Oysters in EVOOâ€
One more little note: In some regions, the bays and estuaries where the Oysters are farmed and harvested, are subject to restricted flows or big temperature swings, at different times of the year. This can, indeed, cause concern about health issues. If you are harvesting yourself, this is definitely a consideration. If you are buying from a reputable farmer or harvester, they are licensed and bonded and know their business. They test their offspring, and the government tests them. They will not harvest or sell if unsafe. In Oregon all the ranches are government approved and inspected. They all have strong flowing currents and good tidal washes, year around, and it has been years since there was a health issue. So there is no worry about following an â€˜old wives taleâ€™ about dates, times, months of the year or alphabet. We can and do harvest and eat year round.
Hope this is of use. Any other questions, just drop me a note.