Staring at the Atlantic Ocean from a sorting platform in Katama Bay, Massachusetts it’s easy to lose yourself in daydreams of devoting all your time to important matters like whether it will be lobster or clams for dinner. Until a salty old fisherman named Roy Scheffer interrupts your thoughts to ask whether you packed a knife. I had. After all, thanks to a friend, I had the pleasure, on my most recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard, of getting a personal tour of Katama Bay’s thriving oyster farms. Roy owns two plots in Katama Bay, each one with a sorting platform and a series of small floating markers attached to mooring ropes holding the bags the oysters grow in. The oysters begin as seeds from a certified hatchery in Maine before being planted here in the bay and tended to by Roy and his two sons. It’s the nutrient rich waters of the Katama Bay that help them develop that delicious flavor in about 18 months. Once it’s time, the ropes are hauled up from the bottom and the bags of oysters are put into a tumbler on the platform. This is lowered into the water and rotated for several minutes to clean them before they are dumped on the sorting table; there, they are separated by size and checked thoroughly for signs of disease (the Scheffers’ biggest concern is Juvenile Oyster disease, which, if left unchecked, could wipe out an entire crop).
I’ve spent a lot of years working with seafood and I’ve shucked A LOT of oysters but I’ve never been even remotely as giddy as when Roy let me loose on a massive pile just minutes out of the water. That first oyster was like nothing I have ever put to my lips. Incredibly high salinity followed by a crisp wash and beautiful sweetness. I stood with the sun beating down on my face popping oysters for myself and the other friends I came with for close to an hour. Most remarkable was the way the salinity mellowed as they sat out of water; I found the peak came around 3 hours out, when the oysters were the most perfect balance of sweet and salty I’ve ever experienced. Roy was kind enough to send me on my way with five dozen to take back to the house, where I spent a lazy evening enjoying them with a fall mignonette. JAKE L.
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
1 tablespoon finely diced apple
3 ounces champagne vinegar