Just Like the Old Days: Heritage Oyster Tins for the Holidays

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Hoopers Island Oyster Co., a Cambridge, Maryland-based oyster farm run by longtime watermen, is bringing back a piece of maritime nostalgia for the holidays.

The oyster aquaculture producer is selling a limited edition "Heritage Tin" of its oysters, modeled after the iconic gallon cans used to pack oysters in the 19th and 20th centuries.

You can buy a can empty, or with one or two pints of fat, shucked Hoopers Island oysters inside. Their most prized variety of oyster, Chesapeake Gold, is a slightly-salty variety with "a sweet, floral melon" taste and a golden hue.

“For years, oysters harvested off Hoopers Island were a staple on many Marylanders’ holiday table,” said Ricky Fitzhugh, Hoopers Island Managing Partner. “We’re reviving that tradition with our farm-raised oysters grown in cages in the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Honga River."

The tins are available at Hoopers Island's holiday pop-up store (at 837 Chesapeake Drive in Cambridge), and also at Baltimore restaurant and butchery, Parts & Labor, run by esteemed local chef Spike Gjerde. Prices start at $20-$30.

The tins are sourced from Independent Can Company of Baltimore and Belcamp, Harford County. In the 1930s, Independent Can produced oyster tins that are now prized by antiques collectors. Only 900 of the Hoopers Island tins are being made this year.

Hoopers Island hopes to put out tins with a new design each holiday season. This year's tin is based on a painting of the Hoopers Island Lighthouse by Cambridge artist Michael Rosato, and adapted by Cambridge graphic artist Jill Jasuta.

Megan Viviano