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Cleaning Mussels


lperry
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... I once bought some mussels from the place that cropped up in the old Larimer's space for awhile, but they were so full of sand, I never could get them clean. ...

I know this is an odd note coming from a vegetarian, but when I was a kid and my parents bought a bushel of oysters for their Christmas party each year, they would put them in a washtub full of water and add some cornmeal. The oysters would filter the water and eat the cornmeal, thus flushing the sand from their shells. So if you have some extra time, a bucket of water, and some cornmeal, you can "clean" any shellfish of residual sediment.

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^^

I've seen the Barefoot Contessa prep mussels using flour and water to flush them out. I haven't tried it.

In my experience, just plain water works pretty good as well with all bivalves. I have never tried adding anything else. Maybe next time.

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I know this is an odd note coming from a vegetarian, but when I was a kid and my parents bought a bushel of oysters for their Christmas party each year, they would put them in a washtub full of water and add some cornmeal. The oysters would filter the water and eat the cornmeal, thus flushing the sand from their shells. So if you have some extra time, a bucket of water, and some cornmeal, you can "clean" any shellfish of residual sediment.

Oh, I did all of that. Even used some of my bag of semolina for this. Life is just too short. This subject is kind of academic at this point for me because Dame Edna doesn't like mussels so I don't cook them at home for us. Which frees me up to order them at restaurants which know how to treat them. (I'm looking at you, Bistrot du Coin).

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We have not needed to purge mussels, though we have done a clam purge on occasion.

I've had very good luck with Great Eastern brand mussels from Maine and those from PEI. The mussels are rope grown** (we got a very nice tour of PEI mussel farming during a seal watching trip a few years ago) and a far cry from the muddy, sandy mussels of my youth, which were a genuine labor of love to prep. In general, I rinse them, inspect for dead or cracked mussels, snip off any beards, and cook. Any mussels that are partially open are rapped on the shell and put on the side of the sink for reinspection at the end of prep time--if they have closed by then, they are still alive. Prep time is maybe 10 minutes for a kilo bag. I do make note of any brands that have too many dead mussels or are not very clean---the el Mar brand that a lot of the Korean groceries stock is on my never again list. There are too many reliable mussel purveyors these days to put up with mussels that are a pain to prep.

** The PEI operation is aquaculture done right. No foreign mussels have been introduced; they use natural mussel spawn and just take advantage of the fact that mussels love to attach to hanging ropes. The ropes are then kept in ideal feeding conditions, but are eating only what nature gives them; no artificial foods. Farmed mussels are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "best choices" list.

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