This was about the most perfectly conceived and executed end-to-end gastronomic event of our stay in Oregon.
Stephanie, fed up with the heat, announced we were headed to the coast in order to cool down, dip our toes in the ocean, and knock some mussels off the rocks at a secret location and accessible only at low tide.
We had a terrific day, the girls played their hearts out, and we returned to Stephanie’s place with our hoard of mollusks, many of them as big as I’ve ever seen. We made a fantastic dinner, but that was only the beginning.
The next day we sorted, cleaned, steamed, smoked, and then canned them and the result was so off the charts fantastic that the lot of us – Feral, Stephanie, Abbie, Val and myself and the ladybugs – were collectively stunned into silence as we ate dinner that night.
We all slowly chewed glorious mouthfuls of smoked mussel reubens: grilled fresh sourdough, gruyere cheese, a medallion of breaded, baked eggplant from the garden, a thick layer of chopped smoked mussels that almost glowed orange beneath their gleaming coat of oil, a forkful of pungent, fermented sauerkraut, and a dollop of Russian dressing that Feral conjured up on the spot.
And, here’s how you, too, can make one of these sandwiches yourself:
Here’s where the hunt begins – working our way from the cliffs above through the dense woods to the beach.
There was a lovely, cool, blanket of fog that kept us covered and mercifully out of the sun
Stephanie seen here leading Team Mollusk toward the secret mussel beds of Oregon.
Tide is out, and we still have to pick our way through the rocks in order to get to the spot.
Leonie seen here using the highly effective mussel-sniffing hounds of the Illinois River Valley to locate her quarry.
You know what? The damn things have pretty sharp edges.
The Old Man From The Sea brings a couple of pretty heavy buckets back to the cars.
We stopped here to enjoy some lunch and let the kids play.
Girls ran off to explore, while we sat still and watched the fog eddy about the cliffs.
She monkeys, and their new friend Arabella
Back at the ranch, dad gets to clean handfuls of the things
Bringing the cauldrons of doom to a boil.
In we go.
Mussels, now steamed and out of their shells, waiting to be finished in the smoker.
As ever, everything I try to do on the farm is complicated by the enthusiastic participation of the turkey chicks. In this case, I am cutting discs of applewood.
Getting ready to smoke.
The salted mussels are laid out in the smoker, away from the coals.
Getting the pressure cooker up to speed.
Showtime. Smoked mussels placed into their final resting spot, about to be doused in olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and pressure canned.
These are, hands down, the most extraordinary fruits of the sea I’ve ever had.