Ned’s Island

Dec 10, 2011

 

Tawny-shelled Ned's Islands

 

Ned was an old Native American guy who lived all alone on his eponymous island on the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound. I don’t know if he liked oysters or not, but the waters off his island were thick with ‘em. This is the fabled home of Bluepoints, and that’s the flavor you get in a Ned’s Island oyster. Bluepoints have a checkered past. They were originally from the Great South Bay on the southern coast of Long Island, but after those were wiped out in the 1800s Bluepoint production switched to Long Island Sound, which had the last great wild sets in the area, and that’s where it really took off. Bluepoints became the most popular oysters in the country. But because the name is not trademarked, soon other regions (Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico) began selling their oysters as Bluepoints, and still do. It’s done a terrible disservice to the name, because a good Bluepoint from Long Island Sound (like those harvested by Hillard Bloom Shellfish of Norwalk, Connecticut, the family-owned company that saved Long Island oystering) has wonderfully firm, briny flesh, while many of the ersatz bluepoints tasted like something the plumber freed from the U-curve under your sink. I still hit these fakes in restaurants all the time.

Ned’s Islands have the classic taste, with a lively 27-ppt brine. They are started in a hatchery (using local broodstock), then grown out in off-bottom cages. Any oysters that don’t meet the Ned’s Island specs are culled, meaning you get a deep-cupped, 3-4-inch oyster every time. Up off the bottom, they have access to a tawny-colored algae that covers the shells (very reminiscent of a Quonset Point) and gives them a complex flavor: sweet (at least on this December evening, when, admittedly, most oysters are at their sweetest), perfectly briny, with a lingering, tannic, green pepper finish (almost like a Chinon or other Cabernet franc). They also have a nice crunch, which to me is essential to the pleasure of an oyster.

 

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