Sunday, December 2, 2007

Prince Edward Island Mussels

Mussels, cultured in the cool water surrounding Prince Edward Island, are rapidly becoming one of North America's most popular seafoods. Although wild mussels, which grow abundantly along shorelines, have long been regarded as trash seafood, people are now becoming aware that cultured mussels are very different. Cultured mussels are grown in mesh stockings that are suspended from longlines (ropes) in the water. Because they never touch the ocean bottom and the ideal conditions promote rapid growth, cultured mussels taste sweeter, are more tender, are plumper, are free of grit and have a higher meat yield than their wild counterpart. As well as being tasty, mussels are nutritious. They are particularly rich in protein and minerals while being low in fat and cholestrol. 3.5 oz (100 g) of mussel meats contain 95 calories, 14.4 g protein, 2.2 g fat, 88 mg. calcium, 3.4 mg. iron and 289 mg sodium.

How to Buy
Mussels are very easy to identify. They are a bi-valve shellfish that measures from two to three inches in length. The shell is primarily a blackish colour with bluish highlights and has an elongated triangular shape. Mussels are traditionally marketed fresh in the shell. The shells are usually closed tightly but they may open slightly when left undisturbed. When purchasing mussels check any open shells by tapping them. If the shells do not close when tapped, they should be discarded. It is relatively easy to distinguish between wild and cultured mussels. Wild mussels, which are a dull bluish colour with white erosion marks, usually have seaweeds or barnacles attached. In contrast, cultured mussels have shiny bluish-black shells, free of barnacles and seaweeds.

How to Store
Fresh mussels may be stored in the shell in the coolest part of your refrigerator for five to eight days. To keep them moist, cover with a damp cloth or wet newspaper. They should not be stored in an air-tight container or in water. The less mussels are disturbed, the longer they will remain alive; therefore, the time to clean them is just before cooking. Cooked mussels may be frozen by placing the shucked meats in plastic containers and covering them with a brine solution of 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt to 1 cup (250 ml) of water. Allow 1/2 inch (1 cm) head space for expansion during freezing. Mussels frozen in this state will store for 3-4 months. If mussels are to be frozen in the shell, they should first be blanched in boiling water for 20 seconds, then drained and packed in heavy plastic bags or plastic containers. Storage time for mussels frozen in the shell is approximately 2 months.

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