|Tundra Swans at Lake Mattamuskeet, Down East, NC|
"Stumpy Point is the best source of oysters in the Pamlico Sound, right?" I asked the fellow steaming a peck of fresh oysters at the Oyster Bar at Martell's Feed House.
"That's what they like to say," he said, an earnest look on his face. "We claim these here are the best, from right out there," he said, pointing over his shoulder.
"Rose Bay?" I asked, having stopped at the oyster processing plant on HWY 264 on our way to the lake. Rose Bay, right next to salt marsh on the sound's edge, used to be famous for their salty, tasty oysters they harvested from the Pamlico Sound. And just a few decades ago, they had competition from many other oyster houses that lined this section of our coast. But then, storms and pollution, in the form of farm run-offs and fresh water from the huge drainage canals and ditches near those lakes and the pocosin swamps, and over-harvesting, all worked together to decimate the oyster industry along the Pamlico Sound.
Amends have been made, with more conscious farming techniques, and the building up of reefs and oyster farms. During the last couple of years, oysters have make a comeback in NC waters. Hallelujah! Rose Bay Oysters are back.
"So where is out there?" I asked when my shucker shook his head to Rose Bay. Gull Rock, a hump in the sound, sorta near the route the ferry takes from Swan Quarter over to Ocracoke, he explained. Just over there, across those fields, he said, pointing. I reckon you can call THAT "local"!
"There was a build up of oyster shells where folks used to dump the shells, you know, to make it so there were more oysters." Over the years, hurricanes and nor'easters swept the heaps of shells away, he explained. But the water bottom had been recently leased, the oyster reef re-built, and oysters were making their comeback in the area.
|Fresh steamed oysters shucked at Martell's Feed House in Englehard|
- In a large skillet, lightly cook bacon over medium heat until just translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. (Partially cooking the bacon will help keep the oysters from overcooking.)
- Drain shucked oysters, or if using raw, open oysters, retain juice and shells.
- In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, cayenne pepper or hot sauce, salt and garlic and oyster juice from shells. Add the oysters and toss to coat. Marinate for 10 minutes.
- Preheat broiler.
- If using pre-shucked oysters, line a baking sheet with foil, then place metal rack on top. If you have the shells, rinse and settle the largest half shells in crumpled foil on baking sheet.
- Roll each halved bacon slice around an oyster. Secure with toothpick or skewer, and place each on the rack or on a shell.
- Place under broiler, and cook until bacon is crisp and the edges of the oysters have curled, turning once to cook both sides evenly. Serve immediately on toast points or fresh spinach dressed lightly with lemon and olive oil.