Today I’m going to try a recipe called Smothered Oysters that was contributed by Miss Lumsden for the 1898 New Galt Cook Book. There’s an entire section devoted to oysters in this cook book and I haven’t tried a single one of them for two reasons. I don’t like oysters and they are not available all the time.
This year the only oysters I could find in my grocery store were in boxes, far too many for me to use before they died. However, today I found a place where I could buy just a couple of oysters at a time. I bought three and planned to use them to make smothered oysters. I put 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and added 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 a saltspoon of white pepper and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Then I tackled opening the oysters. Two years ago I bought an oyster knife but I can’t find it tonight. This means I have to use an ordinary knife to get these sea creatures open and that can be dangerous if the knife slips. It took some work but I finally got the oyster shell open and the oyster flesh removed and into the hot seasoned butter. After five minutes I turned off the heat and removed the pan. I placed an oyster on a cracker and was ready to taste.
Miss Lumsden is possibly Isabella “Etta” Hay Lumsden. In the 1891 census she is the 19 year old daughter of John and Margaret Lumsden. According to Waterloo Region Generations website Isabella died in 1957
I liked the flavour of the smothered oysters. The seasoned butter tasted great and if I didn’t think about it I could pretend the oyster was a mushroom. There was a similar flavour and texture. It is important not to overcook the oysters or they’ll end up rubbery.
Based on articles in The Canadian Grocer magazine in 1898 there were experiments with extending the oyster season by importing from all over the world, particularly the British empire, and it included freezing them. The frozen oysters were intended for cooking in soups and sauces not as fresh on the half shell. Canned oysters were available too. One article mentions that Japan was drying oysters. Fresh oysters were selling for $1.35 per gallon and Prince Edward Island had a growing oyster business.
Put one tablespoonful of butter in a covered saucepan with half a saltspoonful of white pepper, one teaspoonful of salt and a few grains of cayenne pepper. When hot add one pint of oysters carefully prepared. Cover closely and shake the pan to keep the oysters from sticking. Cook five minutes and sere on toasted crackers.