July 17, 2019

Thanksgiving Oysters

Posted by A. Shane Mattingly
Pax Leader

Oysters for Thanksgiving dinner are as traditional in Southern Maryland as turkey.

While tradition also insists any month with an ‘R’ in it is a good oystering month, the truth is that colder the weather, the fatter the oysters, making late November the first of the true “gourmet” oyster season.

Even when the Chesapeake Bay opened for oyster season in the first ‘R’ month, September, by the second half of the 20th century the legal season didn’t open for the most efficient of all oystering vessels, the skipjacks, until November 1.

Skipjacks were designed in the 19th century with the unlikely combination of a shallow draft and a lot of sail. They weren’t built for speed but for the power needed to drag dredges of iron and chain along the bottom of the Chesapeake.

At the turn of the 20th century hundreds of skipjacks worked the bay. Fewer than a dozen remain of the last commercial sailing fleet in North America.

The dredges were able to reach the deepest oyster bars and thus their crews claimed the fattest and tastiest oysters in the world.

Of the array of different sized and configured oysters in the world, the Chesapeake Bay claims some of the most sought after oysters for taste and quality.

 

 

 

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