Mussels 101: How to Choose, store and clean

There are many perks in serving Mussels at the dining table: they are less expensive than other seafoods such as crabs or lobsters, and have a sweet taste that is beloved in cuisines worldwide. It is lean and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Cooked mussels are also visually stunning: the contrast of their orange meat and dark shells make a meal feel luxurious and special.

The majority of mussels that are in the markets today are farmed instead of wild. This is good news both for the environment and for cooks. Farmed mussels are the “best choice” when it comes to buying mussels because the methods used are responsible, chemical free, and may actually benefit the surrounding ocean habitat. Farmed mussels are typically grown suspended in sea water, rather than on the ocean floor. This means there is less sand and grit to clean off.

Here’s how easy it can be to prepare this fruit of the sea at home:

How to select: Choose mussels with closed shells, or shells that close when tapped lightly – this means they are still alive. Choose the ones that appear slightly glossy and have a fresh sea smell.

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How to store:
Fresh is best when it comes to seafood and we strongly encourage you to use mussels on the day you buy them if you can. Put mussels in a large bowl and cover them with a damp kitchen towel in the coldest part of your refrigerator until it is ready to use. Take note that mussels will release small amount of liquid each day, which should be drained.  Never store mussels in airtight containers because they are alive and you want to keep them that way.

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How to clean: Clean mussels only before cooking – the “debearding” process kills them. Discard any mussels that may have cracked shells, feels unusually heavy, or remain open even after being tapped gently on the kitchen counter. Scrub each mussel individually with a stiff brush under running water. Next, “debeard” the mussels. A beard is the byssal thread. It is a little brown tuft of fibers that the mussels use to attached themselves to rocks. To remove the beard, look at the crack where the two shells meet and you will see what looks like brown threads of seaweed. Remove by pulling town towards the hinge of the shell and outwards. Alternatively, use a knife to cut the beard off.

 

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