Oysters were much more popular a hundred years ago than what they are now, and many old cookbooks had numerous oyster recipes. Oysters were widely available and relatively inexpensive. By 1923 trains could quickly transport oysters to most places in the U.S.
I decided to make a fairly basic hundred-year-old oyster recipe – Fried Oysters in Batter. The cookbook recommended that the oysters be served with Philadelphia Relish, which is a cabbage slaw with a vinegrette dressing, so I also made that.
The oysters turned out well and were very tasty. The Philadelphia Relish reminded me of cabbage slaws that were served at church dinners when I was child.
Here’s the original recipe:
This recipe made a lot of batter. Since I had a pint of oysters, I halved the batter recipe (and still had more batter than I needed).
My sense is that green peppers have gotten much larger over the past hundred years, so I chopped 1/2 pepper instead of a whole one for the Philadelphia Relish. Also, the recipe called for “mustard seed,” but it didn’t seem like whole mustard seeds would work in this recipe, so I used ground dry mustard.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Fried Oysters in Batter with Philadelphia Relish
Fried Oysters in Batter
1 pint oysters
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup milk
lard, shortening, or vegetable oil
Put flour, salt, pepper, egg, and milk in a mixing bowl; beat until combined and smooth. Set aside.
Drain oysters, and dry on paper towels. Heat about 1/2 inch of lard, shortening, or vegetable oil in a large skillet. Then drip oysters in the batter, and put in the skillet. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then gently turn to brown the other side. When browned, remove from the skillet with a fork or slotted spoon. Drain the on paper towels, then serve.
If desired, serve with Philadelphia Relish.
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
Combine shredded cabbage and chopped green pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl, put the celery seed, mustard, salt, brown sugar, and vinegar; stir to combine. Then pour over the cabbage and green pepper mixture. Stir gently to evenly distribute the dressing.