Our La St. Simon oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are sourced through the small fishing hamlet of Shippagan, New Brunswick (N 47.44.38/W 64.43.40). Shippagan is located on the Northeastern shore of the Acadian Peninsula.
La St. Simon seed stock is gathered from the Caraquet and Shippagan regions by method of Chinese hat collectors, which look just like you might imagine…Kind of like a droid from Star Wars, or something you might expect to find on the head of one of the guys in Devo. At any rate…The Chinese hat collectors are put out in at the peak of summer, and are reclaimed in September, laden with tiny oysters.
The oysters are then transferred to the smaller of the fishery’s two leases (aka “The Pond”) which is a well-protected inlet, fed by Shippagan Harbor via floodgate. Here the Chinese hat collectors are put into a suspension culture. That is to say, the collectors are hung in the water column from rafts. The fledgling La St. Simon oysters flourish and grow rapidly here in the winter months, and springtime snow runoff acts as a natural deterrent to such bio-fouling as barnacles and or mussels.
When the summer months roll around, the oysters are removed from the Chinese hat collectors, graded, and placed into an upweller. The upweller provides a constant wash of nutrient rich “Pond” water to the ravenous little oysters. In this pristine setting, the oysters attain a size of one inch in a relatively short period of time. When the oysters have reached this more manageable size, they are transferred from the protective confines of “The Pond” to the much larger (32 hectare) lease on La St. Simon Bay.
The Acadian Peninsula is home to a great many protected inlets, and much of La St. Simon Bay is bordered by a myriad of salt marshes and peat bogs. These natural buffers create a well protected, nutrient rich habitat ideally suited for the grow out of the La St. Simon oysters.
Now then…The La St. Simons are grown out in floating ADPI bags which are moored to the bay floor. The floating ADPI bags keep the oysters off of the bottom, and free of any of the mud/sand and or bio-fouling. As with so many of our North Atlantic oysters, the ceaseless tidal wash provides a constant flow of nutrients during the grow out stage. There is no manual manicuring of the mollusks. Instead, the thin edges of new growth on the shell are flaked away as the tidal currents cause the oysters to carom off of the ADPI bags and each other. Additionally, as the La St. Simon oysters are grown out in the top strata of the water column, they are exposed to a great deal of sunlight.
As you may or may not recall, an oyster will harden its shell to protect itself from the rays of the sun (no SPF 15). What this means to us is that we receive an oyster with a hearty shell that is less prone to splintering and or cracking during the shucking process. The oysters remain in the floating bags for four to five years before reaching market size. Once the oysters have grown to the desired size, they are moved to an inter-tidal portion of the lease, and placed in bags lashed to off-bottom tables. This table finishing method keeps the oysters off of the bay floor, and free of any debris. Additionally, the oysters do not jostle around as they did in the floating bags during their grow out stage. This allows the La St. Simons to thicken the edges of their shells, thereby creating a better seal between the shell-halves. A better seal means better retention of liquor, and a longer life expectancy when removed from the bay.
Meats possess a pleasantly firm texture, with a flavor composition that opens with a medium salinity and closes with a subtle sweet-citrus finish.