Thankfully, much of the South, especially states on the Eastern seaboard, has access to quality oysters. Rappahannock River Oysters and Lynnhaven Oysters of Virginia, Caper’s Blades Oysters of South Carolina, Point aux Pins Oysters of Alabama, Pepper Grove Oysters of Texas, and others are only a few options.
Also, do not worry that there will be a huge flavor difference between wild and farmed oysters. Farmed oysters are more consistent in size and shape than wild oysters, but this does not affect the meat inside. The only possible concern is where wild oysters have been harvested. Oysters are natural filters, which means they clean the water around them. This can be a problem when they live in polluted waters, because some of the pollution might be absorbed into the meat. If buying wild oysters, ask their original location.
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To start the stew, shuck the oysters. Make sure not to drain them, as you will need one cup of oyster liquor. Heat it and milk until steaming, then add in the oysters. Cook just until the edges of the oysters begin to curl. Err on the side of just underdone rather than overdone, as the oysters will be added back into the stew and can finish cooking then. With butter and shallots, make a roux in a separate pan. Whisk in half-and-half, Worcestershire sauce, sherry, and celery salt.
After it comes to a boil, add in the milk mixture and the oysters, heating until warmed. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and hot sauce to your liking, then serve with crackers. Again, because this is a simple stew, the quality of the ingredients will affect the final product, so make sure to use the best available.
Consider serving a complete oyster meal, beginning with Oysters Rockefeller.