My mother made oyster stew in the winter, and I think that we had it almost every year on New Year’s Eve. My oldest sister tells me that Mom made it only on New Year’s Eve and then only because my father liked it. She added that he was the only one who ate it. She does not like oysters.
My youngest sister says that Mom made oyster stew at least three or four times a month in the winter because, first, my father loved it and, second, because it was cheap. My memory supports my youngest sister’s recollection. I ate oyster stew at home, so Dad wasn’t the only one eating it.
I don’t really think of oysters as being cheap, but my mother used canned oysters, which, according to my sister, Mom picked up at three cans for a dollar when they were on sale. Her oyster stew was a simple dish of oysters, milk, salt, pepper and butter. We ate it with saltines or oyster crackers. Maybe at first it was the novelty of the oyster crackers, but I have always liked this stew.
We began eating oyster stew for our Christmas Eve supper in the 1970’s when we lived in Kentucky, and we have never missed a year since then. Like my mother, Jerri is attentive to the food budget, so she usually uses a combination of freshly shucked and canned oysters. The result is wonderful.
Jerri’s recipe is almost as simple as Mom’s. Jerri adds flour and Worcestershire sauce and replaces the pepper with hot sauce. The result is a surprisingly rich, velvety soup that is a perfect light Christmas Eve supper. This recipe makes enough for six or eight servings, but any leftovers hold well to enjoy for supper on Christmas day or even a day or two later.
3 T all-purpose flour
3 T cold water
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. hot sauce
1 pint shucked oysters with liquid
3 8 oz. cans oysters
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 quarts whole milk
Mix the flour and salt with three tablespoons of cold water in a three quart saucepan. Put over moderate heat and add the butter, stirring frequently until the butter is melted. Then add the shucked and canned oysters with their liquid along with the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Bring just barely to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for three or four minutes
While the oysters are cooking, heat the milk until it is steaming. When the edges of the shucked oysters begin to curl, stir in the hot milk. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the stew sit for ten to fifteen minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Reheat and ladle into bowls. Garnish with a small pat of salted butter. Serve with oyster crackers and good bread.