Here’s a bit more about our Tatamagouche (Crassostrea virginica) oysters…Not so coincidentally, our Tatamagouche oysters are grown out in Tatamagouche Bay, Nova Scotia (N 45.35/W 63.17). A little cultural background…The word “Tatamagouche” is derived from the Mi’kmaq (MicMac) word “Takumegooch”, which in the native tongue translates to “meeting of the waters” (the southern end of Tatamagouche Bay is created by the mouths of the French and Waugh rivers). This brackish estuary is situated across the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island, and serves as an ideal location for the grow-out of oysters. Now then…What is it about our Tatamagouche oysters that makes them so exceptional? Perhaps the most extraordinary attribute of the Tatamagouche is the fact that they are left very much to their own devices during their grow-out. That is to say…No chipping, manicuring, shaping, or any sort of manipulation takes place over the three to four years it takes for the Tats to reach market size. So what does this mean to you? I’m glad you asked. As the Tats have never been chipped, their valves (shells) are absolutely congruous (who says you never use geometry?). A watertight seal is created by the valves, thereby locking in the precious liquor. This ability to retain this brine so effectively is not unique to the Tatamagouche, but it is exceptional in this day and age of complex aquaculture. Nuts and bolts, manicured oysters have their new growth around their edges chipped away in an effort to maintain uniformity in shape; and to facilitate greater cup definition. The simple methods employed by aquaculturists are terrifically effective, and in all likelihood, without them, there wouldn’t be enough Choice grade oysters to keep up with the demands of the market. However…When the shells are chipped, seams may be created between the valves, inhibiting the manicured oyster’s ability to retain their liquor. In defense of the manicured oyster, more often than not the exaggerated definition (i.e. volume) associated with the cup of a chipped oyster more than compensates for any perceived shortcomings created by a less than perfect seal between the valves. But I digress…One of the inherent drawbacks of a wild oyster is that typically there is a decided lack of continuity in size and shape from oyster to oyster, even when they have been harvested from the same bed. The soft, sandy floor of Tatamagouche Bay allows the native oysters to grow in unencumbered fashion, and the results are remarkable. We currently have three grades of Tats. Large Standard, Select (read: medium) Choice, and Large Choice. We had access to the Standards earlier in the season than the Choice varieties, and while the Choice Tatamagouche oysters are every bit as consistent as any manicured variety of C. virginica, the Standards are nothing to turn your nose up at. Personally, I’ve seen more than one batch of “Choice” oysters which lack the consistency displayed in the Tatamagouche Standards. I would highly recommend these to anyone who wants to bring a little regional diversification to his or her menu, and not break the bank in the process. As stated, the Choice grades are everything a wild Atlantic oyster could and should be. The flavor profile of the Tatamagouche is characterized by a highly brined opening which yields to a sweet finish. Meats possess a slightly firm texture, and are large enough to not become lost in the shells. Shell strength of the Tatamagouche oysters is excellent, and will prove to be resistant to both chipping and splintering. As a personal aside…I brought a few of these oysters to a little soiree recently, and more than one in attendance went out of their way to remark on the delightfully unique composition of the Tats. Tatamagouche oysters are available for a limited time of the year (roughly from May to December), as sea ice makes winter harvest impossible. Large Standard and Choice Tats are roughly three-and a quarter to four-and a half inches in length, while the Select variety is coming in at between two-and three quarter to three and a quarter inches. All varieties are available in 100 count units.
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