1. Before you open the bag of mussels, check the tag that is attached to the bag. It must state the "harvested" date and "use before" date. If the mussels have been harvested more than 2-3 days before, they won't probably be in the best of shape to begin with. So, it is important to check that before you buy them. After that, wash the thoroughly under cold running water and pull all the barnacles, also called "beards".
2. Put all the mussels in a large colander, cover them with 2-3 kitchen towels and spread 2 pitchers of ice over the towels. Sprinkle a tablespoon of coarse sea salt over the ice.
3. Place the colander with the mussels in a large stainless mixing bowl, in order to capture all the water from the melting ice, and place them in the cooler.
4. Check the mussels every day, replacing the ice on top and throwing the water under the colander. After each addition of new ice sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt on top.
The idea for this strategy is that mussels don't like fresh water, especially stagnant water. It kills them fast. So, the gradual melting of the ice and the salt provide them with just enough moisture to stay alive and well.
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