Buying & Storing Fresh Mussels
There’s no need to be intimidated by these mussels - in fact, they’re quite simple to prepare, as well as being a versatile and delightful ingredient that really allows you to flex your culinary talents.
To help, here’s our guide to buying and storing fresh Mussels, as well as one of our chef’s signature mussel recipes.
Mussels are often found in tidal areas, and are at their most comfortable in a cool, wet, and aerated environment.
In order to make sure our customers get the highest quality of mussels, we keep all of ours in fresh tanks in our store ready for you to take home. Before we let you do that, we’ll also be sure to look through the bag and check for quality, as the brittle shells can sometimes crack during the transportation process, and to make sure the mussels have not died prior to cooking.
You should never eat mussels that die before you begin cooking. When they die, the shell that is held closed by the adductor muscle will open. A quick, gentle tap will cause a live mussel to close its shell, allowing you to identify and discard any dead mussels.
The best way to store mussels at home is in a cold, damp, and aerated environment. This means you should not leave them in water in your fridge. Standing water can very quickly become oxygen deprived, which will kill the mussels and cause them to spoil.
We recommend placing the mussels in a colander that is housed inside another bowl or container. Then, cover the mussels with a cold damp cloth and lay ice cubes on top of it.
The ice will slowly melt, keeping the cloth damp and extra cold. Just make sure to check on the container and replace the melted ice, as well as draining the bowl under the colander as needed.
This preparation procedure can be applied to any mussel recipe. The key is to not only rinse the mussels but to take that time to also remove any ‘beards’ that are present.
The ‘beards’ are actually Byuss threads that the mussel uses to anchor itself in the ocean. To remove these threads: hold the mussel in one hand, pinching and then gently twisting the threads close to the mussel shell before pulling them out.
You will also want to take the opportunity to check again for any dead mussels. This can be done by identifying those that will not close when tapped, and discarding them.
Before you begin your cooking make sure that you have any other ingredients, preparations, and serving dishes ready, as mussels cook very quickly, and are at their best eaten and served immediately.
Mussels in White Wine
- 2 lbs Mussels
- 2 tsp Cooking oil (high heat)
- 2 Tbsp Shallots, minced (substitute red onion)
- 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
- ¼ cup White Wine
- ¼ cup Tomato, small diced
- 3 Tbsp Fresh Parsley or Thyme, finely chopped
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Prepare the mussels as instructed in the ‘preparing and storing mussels’ section.
- Make sure you have a pan large enough to hold the mussels after they have opened—they will typically be almost double in size.
- Heat the pan on a high heat and saute the shallots and garlic in oil.
- Add the mussels and around 2 tbsp of white wine per pound of mussels (Or see, below for variations!).
- Cover the pan and steam until the mussels have opened - some may open sooner than others. Remove these from the pan and prepare to serve
- Discard any mussels that don’t open.
- Add any seasonings or spices to the mussels, then pour the cooking liquid over them
- Garnish with fresh tomatoes and herbs.
- Serve with bread of your choice.
If white wine isn’t your flavour of choice, why not try these equally tasty substitutions
- Ginger Beer Mussels – substitute Phillips Ginger Beer for white wine in the above recipe. We choose Phillips because of its savoury qualities, which compliment the mussels. If you can’t find Phillips, any savoury Ginger Beer will work equally well.
- Vodka, Aquavit or Gin – use 1 part vodka, aquavit, or gin with 1 part water instead of wine. Adding shaved fennel or tarragon will complement the sharper flavour of the spirit.
- Tomato – Canned diced tomatoes have enough liquid in them to use when steaming. Use ½ cup of diced tomatoes as your substitute and omit the fresh diced tomatoes at the end. A splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar can add more flavour and depth to the dish.
- Juice –The tangy flavour of citrus juices works especially well with mussels—we recommend Grapefruit, Pineapple, or an Orange and Lemon mix.
- Broth or Stock – Vegetable, fish, or a light chicken or beef stock will add depth to your dish without overpowering the mussels.