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Expected survival rate for a bag of mussels?

We recently discovered that my little boys love mussels. i've purchased them twice from Whole Foods (two different locations, Woburn and Medford) and once from Market Basket (Chelsea). I ended up tossing about half of the ones from both WF purchases, but only ~1/4 from the MB purchase, before cooking.

I'm pretty conservative about tossing them - I don't want to make my kids sick! - but is this typical? I sort through them and discard any that aren't tightly closed, then soak them in cold water for ~20 min and discard any that have opened and don't shut when I tap on them.

Is there a better place to buy mussels?

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  1. the ones I have bought from WF have been pretty good, I have lost about 3 to 5 muscles per bag, which I find pretty acceptable. I don't soak them in fresh water, as it's is not their environment, and they cannot live in it (but am unsure if this is a no no, just something I have always done and it's worked for me), instead I scrub them under the sink and keep them above water level (think low tide...they live through that yes?). When it comes 'proof of life time' I take them out of the fridge, if their open, I tap them on the counter and set them aside, when I am done sorting, if they haven't closed, then I consider them dead. Hope this helps!

    2 Replies
    1. re: devilham

      It does help, thanks! I think I was too quick to discard them - I was tapping the slightly open ones but expected them to close quickly, which they didn't. I'll probably get a better survival rate that way :-)

      1. re: gimlis1mum

        They close up in varying speeds from slow to SLOOOW, that's why I wait a minute or two before issuing out my death certificates

    2. Gimlis ...keep in mind you're dealing with a paranoid 'hound :-)...I use mussels on the day I buy them, and I only buy them from fish markets...I'm super conservative about shellfish and I'm not cooking for precious kids, just my H and me.

      I don't know where you live, but you can go cheaply (go up to Seabrook NH to get them), medium (NE Seafoods in Methuen, MA...the market, not the restaurant) or pricier (Turners in Melrose, for example...the market portion). I don't love Whole Foods in Woburn. Haven't tried Andover.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pinehurst

        Turner's is pretty close to us so I'll check them out. Thanks!

      2. Why soak them in cold water? That can kill 'em as they don't live in fresh water.

        5 Replies
        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          'Cause the internets told me too. I looked up how to cook them, and several places instructed to soak in cold water after washing to reduce grit. Also I usually soak clams in salt water so I kind of had soaking on the brain...not much grit comes out though (I think the mussels are not gritty to begin with) so I'm ready to give it up.

          1. re: gimlis1mum

            I think most the mussels on the market these days are farm raised on ropes suspended in the water column so are much less gritty than wild ones that sit on mud, rocks or sand. If you do any soaking worth while I would do what is recommended for soft shell clams, but not really needed for farm raised mussels.

            1. re: lc02139

              Agree.....mussels bought at the market have already been purged for sand, and really all you need to do is take a brush to the outside of them and rinse them off. Always check the harvest date when buying them, and try to use the same day, but mussels will keep for a day or two in the fridge. The only time you need to soak is if you have fresh dug mussels, and best to soak them in sea water for several hours, and if you don't have sea water, mix a cup of salt in about a gallon of water with some cornmeal.....never fresh water.

              1. re: Infomaniac

                Curious, why cornmeal?

                1. re: mats77

                  So they can purge their little shellfishy guts.

        2. I'm a big mussels fan. No need to put them in water at all. Buy them at a fishmonger you trust (WF doesn't count in my books), get them home ASAP then put them in a bowl in the fridge covered with a damp towel. They should be good for 48 hours.

          1 Reply
          1. re: 5GBoyee

            it also depends when you buy them -- for example mussels on a sunday probably got delivered friday, so i'd pass.

          2. I've had good luck with Market basket in Somerville and usually only discard the occasional broken shelled mussel. Everything that's not broken seems live. That store is a mob scene which can be annoying to shop at, but the turnover is tremendous. All the bags I've bought have tags with the farm location and dates on them, and I'm guessing their sources are the same as any other big store such as Whole Foods. But the prices are better!

            1. I have had great luck with the mussels from Costco believe it or not....very few discards and extremely clean. Just watch the dates careful.