The Endorsement: McIntosh County Smoked Oysters

Today’s guest Snake Nation Press contributor is Griffin Bufkin, co-owner of St. Simons Island’s Southern Soul Barbeque. –James Calemine

By Griffin Bufkin

Lately these days, from the high end destination restaurant with celebrity chef/owners to the small town neighborhood pizza joint, it seems like everywhere kitchens are touting their local sustainable organic produce connection, or the house’s particular regional heirloom, acorn fed, pork special. While the ever-popular farm to the fork mantra keeps popping up on the menu. The only local delicacy that seems to be missing from the chefs grocery list is the step-child of all bivalve mollusks-The humble McIntosh County Oyster.

These razor sharp clusters of briny goodness from the creeks and oyster reefs of coastal Georgia may not have the recognizable trade names like Appilachicola, or Blue Point, but they should. For what they lack in shellfish beauty (perhaps the reason left off many menus), they most certainly make up for in flavor. Buttery, salty, and concentrated when raw, we like to hit them with just the right amount of wood-smoke and heat to make the edges curl but still retain some of that juicy liquor that steams out of the shell when opened. Most locals will immediately testify to this as the Mac is the only choice at any outdoor oyster roast during the fall/ winter season here on Saint Simons Island. Our town fishmonger Frank from Brunswick’s City Market proclaims “ The best there is, period”.

Here is what you will need to smoke enough oysters to feed 25 folks.

A smoker (we prefer the Lange brand out of Nahunta Ga.)
A stack of seasoned oak
Work gloves
Oyster knives
A bushel of washed oysters
Cracked fresh black pepper
10-12 lemons wedged

Start your fire in the fire box and burn until wood becomes white coal and the temperature reaches 250 degrees.

Meanwhile spread the oysters out evenly in full size stainless pans and place them on the bottom rack of your smoker when ready.

Let the oysters cook while maintaining a constant temperature of 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until shells begin to slightly open.

With gloves on remove pans from smoker and transport them to a large table outfitted with the cracked black pepper and lemon quarters, and begin to shuck hot oysters with the tip of your knife in the hinge of the shell. Open and scrape the bottom of the knife under the oyster to separate it from the bottom shell . Of course you can dress them with your favorite cocktail sauce, drawn butter, or hot pepper sauce, on a saltine cracker, but we prefer to let the subtle smoke and natural briny flavor shine. Applying just a pinch of pepper, and a small twist of lemon for its acidic bite, and sucking them down right out of the ½ shell.

Chase these down with a cold classic American pilsner such as Miller High Life or Budweiser Lager.

Southern Soul Barbeque has house-smoked oysters available with advance notice during the cooler months when the local harvest is at its best.

They are especially good baked into an oyster dressing during the holidays. Raw Macs are best purchased from the source, the docks of historic Darien Ga. or call City Market in Downtown Brunswick Ga.

Southern Soul Barbeque

(Photo Credit: Aaron Poteet)