Hama Hamas Smoked, Pickled, and Straight Up
Dec 28, 2010
The Hamma Hamma River has my favorite oyster delta in the world. Barreling out of Olympic National Forest, the frigid, glassy river scours its gravelly delta clean of debris each year, and on that delta several million oysters grow, all owned by the Hama Hama Oyster Company since 1922. These natural-set oysters, perched on the edge of Hood Canal, have a completely different flavor profile from Puget Sound or Willapa Bay oysters. It’s the flavor of salted wild greens—spinach, pig weed, salsify, and especially trout lily. The oysters also are physically distinct, with the most ruffled shells I’ve ever seen.
Crazy, huh? But what really sets Hama Hama apart from other Washington State oyster growers is their value-added products—smoked and pickled oysters that will blow you away. Don’t let those inedible tins of smoked erasers from China put you off smoked oysters; when done with good, fat oysters and authentic smoking techniques, they are a thing of beauty. Hama Hamas are huge, meaty, and dry, not slimy like the supermarket kind.
They are stupendous in winter with a glass of scotch around 5:00 (earlier in the far north). The pickled oysters have the umami tang of pickled herring with less of a fishy taste and more lemon, thanks to the lemon in the pickling juice. They scream out for a martini. In fact, they scream to be IN the martini—the oft-mentioned, rarely encountered, deeply dreaded oystertini. Since January is National Oystertini Month, you’d better get on it. And if you do, please tell us all how your oystertini experience was.
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