First, unpack the box and put the oysters in the fridge. If you're eating them within a day, you don't need to do anything more than this. If you're going to hold off a few days, you can baby them a little bit: arrange the oysters cupped side down on a tray or in a bowl with a damp towel over the top.
Never re-introduce oysters to the wild... don't hang them off the dock or soak them in water you scoop out of the bay.
In refrigerators, the danger is that live oysters will dry out (hence the damp towel, cupped-side-down bit). When you're storing oysters on ice, take precautions to prevent them from sitting too long (or at all) in fresh water. Keep the drain plug open, or drain the cooler regularly. Stored properly, Pacific oysters should keep for up to 5 days. (See below for tips on freezing). But really, you should eat oysters as soon as possible after you buy them, because why not?
Live oysters may open slightly in a refrigerator, but should still respond (close) when they're handled. Dead oysters gape open and don't move. If it's hollow when you tap on it, it may have a chink in the shell or it may be dead, but it's almost certainly dried out. If you're at all doubtful about the safety or age of the oyster, either cook it or throw it out. The point of eating a raw oyster is to eat something with life-force, something that's alive. If it's been in the refrigerator too long, or if it's been frozen, cook it up into something delicious. Don't force the issue by slurping it down.
To completely ensure safety, cook an oyster to an internal temperature of 145 degrees for 15 seconds.
- How to grill oysters
- How to shuck oysters (the written version)
- How to shuck oysters - the video
- Flavor profiles + Our attempt to explain the difference between various types of oysters.
- Got too many oysters on your hands? Read this guide
FYI: we don't recommend eating previously shucked oysters (the kind we sell in a jar) raw. This isn't a health concern, it's a quality issue. Don't get us wrong: the shucked oysters are amazing, and might be the best thing we sell, but they're meant to be cooked. They don't pretend to match the magical time-and-space-bending, tune into the moon culinary experience of raw oysters. Cook them up nice and tasty, and enjoy converting that friend who "only eats oysters raw."Shop Oysters
Keep clams cold in a refrigerator or in a cooler on ice. We make sure the clams have time to purge before we ship them, so they shouldn't need to be soaked, but whenever you're eating clams, chew carefully and gaurd against grit (see below). If you’re not planning on eating them that same day, put a damp cloth over them so they don't dry out. Before you cook them, rinse the clams carefully and make sure they're all closed up and alive.
Cold, refrigerated clams gape open slightly, about a quarter inch or so, but should still close up when you move them around. (Dead clams open completely, and shouldn't be eaten.) Clams will keep just fine for 3 to 4 days, and usually longer.
If you do want to soak the clams: put them in cold fresh water for about half an hour, changing the water two or three times. (This piece of advice comes from our good friend and amazing chef Renee Erickson). Don't let them sit in fresh water for too long, because that will kill them eventually. Keep in mind soaking reduces their salt content, so you might need to adjust your seasoning. (Unsoaked clams bring plenty of salt to whatever dish you're preparing).
- As you rinse and handle clams, listen for clunkers: it may be a dead clam, or just a clam with a broken shell.
- Don't steam clams directly in the dish you're preparing, just in case there's a mud bomb in the bunch.
- Using that same logic, always chew carefully, and don't empty the pot of clam nectar into your sauce, as there's often a little bit of sand in the bottom of a clam steaming pot.
- Lastly, if you know that the clams were alive and happy when you put them in the pot, keep on cooking the ones that don't open. They're just late bloomers, and should open up with a bit more TLC.
Cooking shellfish is fundamentally very, very simple. If you can turn on an oven or boil water, you can cook delicious shellfish. That said, we do have a few tips to offer. Head over to our recipe page for clam pasta recipes, oyster casseroles, and our super secret amazing fried oyster recipe. Here's where you can find shucking instructions for raw oysters, and here are some ideas for serving raw oysters.
Freezing Shellfish is a bit trickier. Yes, you can freeze raw shellfish, but only if you're going to cook it later. You could eat a previously frozen oyster raw, but why? It would be healthy, but not magical. For us, the point of eating an oyster raw is to eat something alive, something with life force.
So, with that lecture over, here are our recommendations.to top
Oyster and clams are low on the food chain and relatively short lived, meaning that bio-accumulation (the movement of contaminants up the food chain) associated with long-lived carnivorous fish like shark and tuna isn't an issue. Shellfish also is very nutritious, containing healthy omega3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, and other essential nutrients.
That said, shellfish are filter feeders, and we can't brag that they're good sources of zinc and iron without pointing out the obvious: they do pickup heavy metals from the surrounding environment. Fortunately the Washington State Department of Health has a very robust monitoring system to test water and sediment quality, ensuring that shellfish in Washington is only harvested from approved estuaries.
We have two specific warnings for you:
1. Consuming raw or undercooked food increases your risk of foodborne illness.
Raw food, especially raw shellfish, is of course inherently more dangerous than cooked food. So, buy from a reputable location (or directly from the farm!), don't eat raw shellfish if you're pregnant or immune-compromised, and if you're unsure if the oysters are safe to eat raw either cook them thoroughly (145 degrees for 15 seconds) or toss them out.
2. WARNING: Consuming shellfish products can expose you to chemicals including cadmium, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
For more information go to www.P65warnings.ca.gov/food
Here's more information about oysters and cadmium.
We're very fortunate to harvest oysters in one of the cleanest estuaries in Washington State. Our farm has no history of industrial waste or manufacturing, there are very few boats nearby that might contaminate the water, and there are very few houses in the upstream watershed. When we source oysters from other beaches or farms we do so very carefully, and work with people who share our values for product safety and quality.
Oysters are seasonal and there's no sense eating something out of season. Seasonality varies with growing location. Warm water in the summertime is a good thing because it lets the oysters reproduce, but it also encourages a naturally occurring saltwater bacteria called vibrio to flourish. These bacteria are not “red tide.” They’re associated with warm water and can be made worse by improper handling, but cooking the oysters thoroughly makes them safe to eat.
Because of this, not all of our varieties are available year round. During the summer we primarily harvest oysters from growing areas that stay cold year round. We normally stop selling Blue Pools and Hama Hamas to eat raw sometime in July or August, depending on the year, and start selling them again sometime in September or October.
Check our blog for information about whether or not we're selling oysters for raw consumption, read the "what to do with oysters" section above for some safe handling tips, or just give us a call!to top
Yes! Farmed shellfish is amazingly sustainable, requiring nothing but clean water and sunshine. Once oysters and clams mature past the larval stage in the hatcheries they require no additional food… they just consume whatever is in the water naturally. We don’t use pesticides, fertilizers, or chemicals of any kind on our beaches. And shellfish can help maintain a healthy ecosystem by filtering algae out of the water, keeping the water clear so that sunlight can penetrate and plants can grow. One of our priorities as farmers is to make sure there are plenty of oysters on the beach, so that we always have some to harvest, and so that there are enough to spawn every year. Oysters also provide habitat for creatures such as shore crab, gunnels, and sculpin, which hide beneath oyster clusters to escape the sun (at low tide) and bigger predators (at high tide). Shellfish provide lots of food for other animals, including migrating waterfowl. Finally, keeping estuaries healthy for shellfish production benefits wild and farmed populations alike.
More good news:
We love growing shellfish for many reasons, and one is that it aligns economic and environmental interests. In most industries, corporations can have better profit margins when they ignore environmental health. But in the shellfish industry, the bottom line looks better as environmental quality improves. This creates economic incentives to keep watersheds healthy and to recover polluted waterways. And, the farmed product itself provides habitat and ecosystem services.
And it's fun!
Yes, shellfish farmers grow really healthy food with very few inputs and provide good paying jobs for people in rural economies, but it’s about more than money: oysters build social capital and create a shared identity around work and food. Harvesting and eating raw oysters is about as close to nature as you can get, and it’s normally a shared experience. Plus, it's delicious. :)to top
Can I visit?
Yes! We welcome visitors to our farm. Our Farm Store is open 7 days a week from 9:30 to 5:30, so there's almost always someone here to say hi and talk oyster. If you're looking to eat on site, the schedule in our restaurant (which we call our Oyster Saloon) varies from season to season. Our Saloon is dog friendly. Because of the tideflats, the tides, the tendency for strong winds, and our lack of a dock, we don't allow boat access. Check hours, and get more info about visiting here.
What's up with your logo?
Our logo was inspired by the beautiful 1920s-era concrete bridges that span the north and south branches of the Hamma Hamma River. We've long used the bridges as symbols of the farm on t-shirts and Christmas cards, so when we formalized the logo a few decades ago the bridge was a no-brainer. We love how the bridge fits in with our commitment to this place and to fostering connections... within a community, among generations, or between forests and ocean.
Hama vs Hamma:
Hama Hama is the trademarked name of our business and our oyster. Legend has it, the Company's founder, our great-grandfather, chose a short spelling when he named the business because he wanted to save ink. Many of us have avoided repeating this story because it makes him sound like a real miser, but now that we spend too much time each day typing multiple h's, m's, and a's into our phones, we feel gratitude for his parsimony. In the 1950s, Washington State formalized the name of the river as Hamma Hamma River. Both words ultimately derive from the Coastal Salish name for the village located in the area, Hab'hab.