In Long Island’s Moriches Bay, Great Gun Oyster Farm is raising oysters that reflect the local terroir. Their Great Gun oysters have a sharp brine up front that leads to a sweet, buttery finish, bringing to mind the brisk waters of the Atlantic shoreline.
Great Gun’s owner, Paul McCormick, came to oysters after a long period of wanting to return to the waters where he grew up fishing and hunting for clams and crabs. Early in his career, he tried his hand at commercial clamming, but was forced out because of competition. He left the venture with the wish that he could control the waters and the creatures in it, only to realize some 18 years later that this was possible via environmentally-conscious aquaculture. Working with marine scientists from Stony Brook University, McCormick led Great Gun to the forefront of responsible oyster farming, contributing greatly to the sustainability and health of the waters along the Fire Island National Seashore.
In addition to raising oysters and contributing to the local ecosystem, Great Gun is carrying on a distinctly New York tradition. Once upon a time, the local waters were rife with oysters, making the region practically synonymous with the shellfish. They were a staple food for the native Lenape tribes, and later for colonial Americans—oysters were so common, you could easily find them at street corner vendors. But beginning in the nineteenth century, over-harvesting and pollution depleted the waters of the creatures, all but wiping out the natural population. Through the efforts of people like McCormick, New York oysters are undergoing a rebound, creating not only an abundance of delicious shellfish, but also a vital means of cleaning up the shoreline: oysters act as a filter to the waters, removing excess nitrogen and converting it into a safe byproduct.
We visited McCormick at his farm to see how he and his team raise and harvest oysters all year long. Watch the video below to see how Great Gun is “working with nature to craft the perfect oyster.”