Mussels are the common name given to a variety of freshwater and saltwater mulluscs, of which clams, pipis and vongole all belong. The commercial mussel found in Australia is the Blue Mussel, and is one of the most sustainable types of seafood you can purchase.
PURCHASING TIPS WHEN BUYING:
Mussels should be brightly coloured with lustrous shells. Shells should be firm and intact. The shells will be closed or will close when gently tapped or squeezed. They should have a pleasant fresh sea smell. When shopping for fresh mussels use a secure chiller bag or esky and ask your fishmonger to pack some ice with your purchase.
HOW DO YOU STORE MUSSELS?
Place loose fresh mussels in a container as soon as you get home, cover with a damp cloth and keep in the warmest part of the refrigerator, usually the crisper (optimum 50C), ensuring that the cloth remains damp. Store ready to cook prewashed packaged mussels chilled in the coolest part of your refrigerator. For the absolute best results using prewashed mussels, don’t open the bag until you are ready to cook. Drain off the liquid in the bag and use the mussels straight away. Prewashed mussels have a 10 day shelf life however if using fresh mussels use them fresh on the day or the next day.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE MUSSELS FOR COOKING?
Place fresh mussels in the sink under running water. Pick up each mussel and check that its firmly closed. Discard any mussels with broken shells or remain open once tapped or gently squeezed. Scrub each mussel with a stiff brush to get rid of any barnacles, pulling off the hairy ‘beard’ that sticks out from the shell, if it has one. Just before cooking, soak your mussels in fresh water for about 20 minutes. As the mussels breathe, they filter water and expel sand. After about 20 minutes the mussels will have less salt and sand stored inside their shells.
CAN MUSSELS BE FROZEN?
You can freeze cooked mussels, but we do not advise that you freeze a fresh, live mussel. You will find a huge loss in both texture and sweetness upon defrosting. If you do wish to freeze the mussels, cook them first and then freeze them.
HOW LONG DO MUSSELS TAKE TO COOK?
Don’t overcook. More than 4−5 minutes and they’ll lose their soft texture.
HOW TO COOK MUSSELS?
Mussels are usually cooked in a large covered saucepan with a small quantity of seasoned liquid or white wine and then tossed in a sauce or actually cooked in the sauce. They only take 4−5 minutes to cook. Did you know you can barbecue mussels? Place on a heated barbecue flat plate with a metal bowl or saucepan placed over the top to create steam. Toss into sauce once cooked. You can also cook them in a wok with a lid.
CAN YOU EAT COOKED MUSSELS THAT DO NOT OPEN?
Mussels that do not open when heated can be eaten! This is an old wives tale, and with modern harvesting techniques, every mussel will be 100% safe to eat, as long as they have been suitably stored below 4 degrees. Don’t throw away any that are unopened after cooking – prise open and eat!
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A MUSSEL IS OFF?
If a mussel dies it will start to smell pretty bad so fear not, you will know by the smell if it is off.
WHAT FLAVOURS GO WELL WITH MUSSELS?
Mussels are fantastic flavour carriers – they work well with onion, garlic, white wine, chilli, ginger, pepper, cumin, fennel, saffron, lemongrass and tomato. Mussels love herbs especially parsley, basil, tarragon, oregano and thyme.
WHAT BEVERAGE COMPLIMENTS MUSSELS?
Mussels go well with beer, wine and even green tea.
WHY ARE SOME MUSSELS ORANGE AND OTHERS ARE WHITE?
Female mussels are bright orange and the male mussels are creamy white. Both have a rich, sweet flavour.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF MUSSELS:
Mussels are one of the easiest foods to cook with the added benefit of they are incredibly good for you. Rich in Omega 3, iodine, zinc and selenium they also contain more iron than fillet steak.
TYPES OF MUSSELS
Blue mussels These filter feeders are abundant (most Australian supply is farmed) and among the most affordable and sustainable seafoods. They grow attached to suspended, horizontal ropes and are harvested at around 18 months, when they are 6cm–9cm long. Each yields around 30g of meat. They are available year round from aquaculture in NSW, VIC, SA, Southern WA and Tasmania. Sold live, blue mussels (also called black mussels) should be cooked as soon after purchase as possible; they require very little cooking.
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Issue 64 2020