Jerseyville oysters among cream of the crop at Sydney show

Story by The Macleay Argus,By Thom Klein

A JERSEYVILLE father and son have tasted home-bred success at prestigious food awards.

Oyster producers Glenn Maxwell and his dad Lindsay have netted two silvers and a bronze at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show.

The gourmet food awards are organised by the Royal Agricultural Society of Sydney.

It is the second time the Maxwells – who trade as Smokey Cape Oysters) have earned awards, having won two medals in 2010.

Their latest gongs were in the Sydney rock oyster section.

There are four classes of oysters, which are graded by size. These are (from smallest to largest) cocktail, bottle, bistro and plate.

Smokey Cape Oysters earned silver in the bottle and plate categories, and gold in the bistro category.

Glenn Maxwell was delighted with their success.

“From what I heard, this year there was a record number of entrants (for the Fine Food Show),” he said.

“Winning the awards helps our business and the image of local produce.”

Flooding events in recent years have disrupted production for the Maxwells and other oyster growers.

Lindsay said the award judging process was thorough.

“For the shows, people are trying to enter a uniform product, but the oysters are also judged on condition and taste,” he said.

“They go by whether there are algae attached, the shape, the moisture content, the flavour and the after-flavour.

“We try to keep ours in condition always, so we can sell them at any time.

“You try to produce the best you can get, with the best shape and the fattest meat.

“I think it has been commented that ours have a sweeter and creamier flavour.”

Watch YouTube Video – How to shuck an oyster

The Maxwells credit their success to a rigourous stock management process.

“It helps us present a better oyster,” Glenn said.

“We do regular maintenance to prevent bio-fouling – where mussels and other marine life attach themselves to an oyster – which creates problems.”

The Maxwells have been producing oysters since 2007, having come from a background in engineering, within the fire protection industry.

“It was a steep learning curve,” Lindsay said.

“You never stop. If you think you’re going to have a holiday, forget about it.

“There’s no fixed selling period, you’ve still got to manage the stock and keep them alive, some grow faster.”

They have leaseholds at Spencers Creek, Jerseyville, Clybucca, and Fishermans Reach.

It can take from two to three-and-a-half years to grow oysters from spats.

“You don’t need them to be too big,” Glenn said.

“It’s more worthwhile producing bottle size, from a business point of view.”

Most of Smokey Cape Oysters’ trade is to processors in Sydney, Brisbane and Tweed Heads.

The processors prepare the oysters for sale to restaurants, clubs and fishmongers.

About 0.5 per cent of the 20,000 dozen they sell annually are sold directly from their shed at Jerseyville.

Glenn enjoys eating them raw, with a wedge of lemon, a dash of Tabasco sauce or wasabi.

“A lot of people think it’s a sin to cook oysters, but I love them crumbed too,” he said.