What to check for when buying mussels
When buying your mussels, either from a fishmonger or from the supermarket, always check to see if they are fresh. A good way to do this is to look and see if the mussels are tightly closed. If they are then this is a good sign of freshness. When you get them home, put them straight into the fridge to keep them cool and if you can cook them the same day all the better.
Before you cook them, you need to clean them. Rope-grown mussels or farmed mussels are usually quite clean and don’t require the rigorous individual scrubbing-under-water that wild mussels need. Mussels that have been dredged from the seabed will have barnacles on them and grit inside so they need a lot more attention.
How to clean Mussels and Checking if they are still alive
Place the mussels in the sink under running water. Pick up each mussel and check that it’s firmly closed. If you find a mussel that is slightly open you can check for signs of life by knocking them against one another, if the mussel is still alive it should slowly close itself back up. If this doesn’t happen then you have a dead one and you need to throw it straight into the bin. Remember if you are unsure, discard it because it’s better to be safe then sorry.
Scrub each mussel individualy with a stiff brush or wired scubber to get rid of any barnacles or debris. You will find a hairy bit that sticks out from the shell, this is called a ‘beard’ and it needs to be removed. To remove the beard hold it between your thumb and forefinger and pull it downwards towards the end of the mussel shell. Pull it firmly until it comes away and then just discard it.
It is really important that you clean your mussels well as you don’t want any grit in your dish. Why not try our tasty Sautéed Mussels (Sauté di Cozze)