Freshly harvested mussels generally retain their freshness about one to two days if they are kept in moist gunny sacks in normal room conditions. Studies show that shelf-life can be extended to as much as four days if the mussels are placed in clusters in shallow trays receiving a steady flow of sterilized water. Hence, mussels can be depurated while they are being stored or transported from the farm to the market.
Shell-on mussels can also be stored in the freezer at –30°C for as long as six months to a year. They can subsequently be cooked, with no deterioration in meat quality, by plunging them directly into boiling water. This prevents tearing of the meat, which would otherwise occur if the frozen mussels were first allowed to thaw.
Processed mussels have a long shelf-life. Cooked meat, for example, can remain fresh in the refrigerator for one to two weeks and in the freezer for as long as two to three months. If blast frozen, it can be stored for as long as one to two years with no deterioration in meat quality. Glazing of individually quick frozen (IQF) mussels helps to retain the shape of the mussels and enables easy handling during defrosting.
Block and individually glazed frozen mussels (Clockwise from top left: block frozen mussels, cooked and frozen on same day; block frozen mussels, stored as frozen shell-on, then cooked and refrozen a year later; individually glazed frozen mussels, stored as frozen shell-on, then cooked, glazed and refrozen a year later; individually glazed frozen mussels cooked, glazed and refrozen on same day)
The shelf-life of dried mussel meat is dependent on the moisture content of the meat. After sun-drying, the moisture content is about 10% of the dried meat weight. Such meat can be stored for about four months, provided that it is kept in air-tight containers.
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The shelf-life of cooked meat can be further extended by smoking, pickling, or preserving it in brine or sauces. At present, there are no local canneries canning mussels and all of the canned or bottled products are imported from Europe and South Korea.
Mussels are consumed by various ethnic groups in Singapore. However, they are generally more popular with the Malays, who eat them in a dish called sambal containing chilli paste. The Chinese prefer to buy the dried meat for boiling in soup. In restaurants serving Western cuisine, mussels are prepared in the shell, i.e., steamed; in half-shell, i.e., escargot; or as cooked meat, and chowder.
The market demand is limited. In 1976, there was a higher demand for dried mussel meat, estimated at 145 tons annually. However, with increasing awareness of mussels, the public now prefers to buy the cooked meat. This is sold either to supermarkets packed in styrofoam trays or direct to food vendors (hawkers).