Tag Archives: Cawston

On Mussels, Clams and Oysters… Oh My!

There is a aquaculturalist well known throughout Southern BC to sea-foodies, and in particular to us shell-fishies as the Oyster Man. His passion for bivalves is intoxicating, and isn’t that just what you want from your aquaculturalist?

Oyster Man is pretty much everything you’d expect from a man of the sea. Solid stature, sparkling sky blue eyes, sea-salt grey and pepper black full beard crowned with the requisite maritime chapeau. Very satisfying. Everyone loves the Oyster Man.

During the Cortes Island shellfish season Oyster Man can been seen from shore hand harvesting his wonderful bounty at low tide. In Oyster Man’s world “when the tide is out, the table is set.”

Photo Credit: Oyster Man

Photo Credit: Oyster Man

We lucky few who live in the Similkameen have access to Oyster Man as he meanders from the Gulf Islands through Manning Park up the Crowsnest Highway to the Kootenays loaded to the gills with fresh mollusks.

It will be 9:00am when Oyster Man temporarily sets up shop at our neighbours organic poultry farm in Cawston. In attendance will be local farmers, foodies and vintners lucky enough to be included at this semi-secret rendezvous.

Imagine sampling and discussing beautiful ocean fresh oysters at 9:00 in the morning. An impromptu tailgate party ensues with Riesling and Chardonnay graciously shared by Little Farm Winery lacated down the street. Orofino Vineyards from up the street will be along in a moment. Talk about bookends. Oyster Man shuck another!

Tailgate Oysters with Little Farm Winery

Tailgate Oysters with Little Farm Winery

Our standing order from Oyster Man is ten pound mussels, five pound clams and a couple dozen small oysters. Upon my return farmersdotter gets right to work debearding the mussels, scraping the clams and shucking the oysters.

The oysters are consumed raw in accordance with Oyster Man’s recommendation: Unadulterated, swimming only in their own nectar. But seeing how Oyster Man is probably past Osoyoos by now farmersdotter can not resist adding finely chopped shallots, from yet another neighbour and fellow shell-fishie, plus fresh squeezed lemon. No honey and, for this one time only, no hot sauce. Thou shalt let the Oyster be.

Oyster Plate

farmersdotter Oyster Plate

The plan is always the same. Feast on fresh steamed mussels tonight and with the leftovers farmersdotter makes the best, and we mean without a doubt the best chowder anywhere. Ever. Period.

The secret to good chowder is simple and begins with the preparation of your mussels and/or clams for steaming. Going forward, and bless you for making it this far, we’ll defer de facto to mussels but the same could be said for clams or combination thereof.

Steaming Mussel Bowl

Steaming Mussel Bowl

Preparation for Steamed Mussels:

5 lb – Mussels

2 – medium red onion, finely chopped

2 – shallot, finely chopped

4 – 6 garlic cloves, minced

4 – roma tomato, seeded and chopped

2 oz – butter, salted

2-3 tablespoon – olive oil

1 cup – dry vermouth or half-decent white wine

Handfull – chopped parsley

To taste – salt and pepper

Lots – lemon/Lime wedge. Hey, Vodka/Gin/Tequila optional

In a huge pot melt butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot and red onion and saute until translucent.

Now you are going to add the mussels but just before you do tip in the vermouth or half-decent white wine. Or both, what the hell.

Okay, quickly add the mussels, stir and cover to let steam for about five minutes.

Immediately prior to serving add and stir in the tomato and parsley.

Empty everything from the steam pot into a nice crockery serving bowl and crush citrus over the top. Keep some citrus on the side and use liberally for brightening things like your drinks or the mussels at the bottom of the bowl.

It goes without saying that viable mussels will open during the steaming process. Mussels who choose to remain closed should be avoided for being antisocial and potentially toxic.

Enjoy with fresh focaccia or naturally leavened bread for dipping.

It is vital to retain the liquid from the serving bowl in order to make farmersdotter chowder. Next time. Cheers!


We Love This Place.

Sunday. The weekend. Labour Day weekend to boot. This means two things; the waning of summer and the Community Harvest Dance.

Although several summer like days remain for the Similkameen Valley there is something in the air, especially the early morning air that foreshadows Autumn. No longer is there a need to burst forth at 5am to complete the daily tasks before lunchtime when the heat becomes oppressive. Instead we wait for the sun to crest the hill around 7:30am and slip on a second layer of clothing, perhaps an old shirt, before we step outside to begin the day.

Sun on Hills

Sun on Hills

Won’t be long and it will be 9:00am before the sun reluctantly peeks above the hills. By then an old sweater will count as a third layer over the old shirt.  By then come 3pm the evening chill will have set in. By then we will be planting garlic for the second year completing our first full cycle at farmersdotter organics. By then it will truly be Autumn but for now it is time to dance!

There is something special about a Community Harvest Dance, especially for farmersdotter and I as this is our first year in the community of Cawston, BC.

Chopaka North To Cawston - Credit: Murray Henry

Chopaka North To Cawston – Credit: Murray Henry

It marks the end of the season and a time to plan and dream for next season. We had totally forgotten about the harvest dance yet yesterday, thankfully we were able to acquire tickets at the Penticton Farmers Market from a neighbour and fellow vendor who was going from booth to booth in search of forgetful folks like us. Giving us one last opportunity in our busy lives to do something social. Something special. Even though the season isn’t really complete it has been good. farmersdotter and I remarked last night how blessed we are. We love this place we find ourselves.


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