Broadwater Oysters (Virginia)

Oct 14, 2012

Briny Broadwater Oysters

Here’s a very promising new oyster out of Virginia. Broadwater Oysters are raised in Occohannock Creek, a Chesapeake tidal creek on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. That’s a place that raises many happy oysters, but the two guys growing Broadwater oysters then take another key step: They relay the oysters to the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore just before sale to “salt them up,” a time-tested practice. This is why, while many Chesapeake oysters suffer from a dearth of salinity, Broadwaters are mouthwateringly briny. They also have a lively pizzazz that I associate with such sainted oysters as Colville Bay and Totten Inlet Virginicas, high praise indeed, and they end with a unique and fascinating finish of cedar and spice. All in all, great flavor. There are some issues to be overcome–the shells are horribly brittle, due to boring sponges, intensely yellow sponges that, alas, thrive in the Chesapeake and love to drill into oyster shells to get a purchase. The numerous holes leave the shells structurally weakened, and the pockmarked look that results is very characteristic of Chesapeake oysters. The upshot is that the shells tend to break during shucking. This will be a tough one to solve, but the other issue should take care of itself. In October, the meats on the oysters were still quite thin; their bodies hadn’t plumped up much. Given another month, I expect them to fatten nicely, and then they will be well worth looking for, for as fine a flavor as you’ll find in a Virginia oyster.

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