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Cooking Turtle


rickmartin
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I am preparing a series of dinners based on the food of the settlers of Lawrence KS, my fair city, 150 years ago. There is one item I plan to serve that I have never cooked before: turtle. My supplier says it is more specifically snapping turtle, and it has arrived cleaned, semi-boneless, and looking quite cared for in a meat buyers opinion.

I plan to make a simple soup of turtle and corn or hominy in broth. My main question is of cook time and tenderness. Some say the texture is of frog legs or lobster which would persuade me to think it would be a short, "til done" cook time like chicken or shrimp. Others have said you have to cook the bajeezes out of it to reduce the strong flavor. This goes against everything I believe in.

Since I paid about $18 per pound after shipping I would love to hear some experiences and tips before I tear into it.

Thanks

RM

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I am preparing a series of dinners based on the food of the settlers of Lawrence KS, my fair city, 150 years ago.  There is one item I plan to serve that I have never cooked before: turtle.  My supplier says it is more specifically snapping turtle, and it has arrived n a meat buyers opinion. 

I plan to make a simple soup of turtle and corn or hominy in broth.  My main question is of cook time and tenderness.  Some say the texture is of frog legs or lobster which would persuade me to think it would be a short, "til done" cook time like chicken or shrimp.  Others have said you have to cook the bajeezes out of it to reduce the strong flavor.  This goes against everything I believe in. 

Since I paid about $18 per pound after shipping I would love to hear some experiences and tips before I tear into it. 

Thanks

RM

Many years ago I lived at a place called "The Phunny Pharm", (I don't think you need any particulars other than the spelling to envison what kind a place this was). Once after a day of hunting and fishing we decided to make a dinner of our bounty based on the title of a children's story; "Tortise and Hare Stew".

The "Tortise" was a large snapping turtle we'd caught while fishing for catfish, and which we had discovered was still capable of locomotion long after being decapitated, and the "Hare" was some unfortunate rabbits we encountered while hunting for grouse.

Rabbits are quite easy to butcher, but having your turtle already "cleaned, semi-boneless, and looking quite cared for" is quite an advantage. The only thing tougher than cleaning a turtle is the meat you get from it.

Even after long stewing the turtle was impossible to chew, and I hate to think of the effect it might have had on the digestive tract had we managed to consume very much of it. The rabbit was okay, and the stew's vegetables filled out the meal.

Inhalation of herbal substances before the meal and consumption of alcoholic beverages afterward helped considerably.

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Rabbits are quite easy to butcher, but having your turtle already "cleaned, semi-boneless, and looking quite cared for" is quite an advantage. The only thing tougher than cleaning a turtle is the meat you get from it.

Even after long stewing the turtle was impossible to chew, and I hate to think of the effect it might have had on the digestive tract had we managed to consume very much of it. The rabbit was okay, and the stew's vegetables filled out the meal.

Turtle is tasty, but there are bits of the turtle (called "white meat" in the local vernacular) that are indeed too tough to chew, no matter how long you cook them.

Your cleaned and prepared turtle should have those bits removed, and be relatively tender--think chicken thighs--and should NOT need extended cooking.

You are right about cleaning the buggers--WAY too much trouble.

sparrowgrass
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The only time I have had turtle outside of a restaurant was when I was in survival school in the Navy. I do remember that we were told to only eat the RED meat. We simple pan fried it, along with some snake meat and we were given some rice to go with it. I remember it as being very tasty, of course, that could have been because I hadn't eaten anything but palmetto shoots for a couple of days!

I believe it was a restaurant in Florida that served an appetizer of turtle and alligator tail that was lightly breaded and deep fried, also very tasty.

Dredged in seasoned flour and lightly pan fried might be the way to go.

Where did you get the turtle meat?

Bob R in OKC

Home Brewer, Beer & Food Lover!

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Where did you get the turtle meat?

I bought it on the internet from Seattle Exotic Meats. I say "well cared for" because it came in neat little 2 lb. packages on dry ice and, although frozen, appeared quite fresh. All of the meat has a distinct blood-reddish hue so I hope it is void of the "impossible" bits referenced above.

I have more than I need for the first dinner and intend to do some flour-dredged, quick fried pieces to see what type of tenderness I get. This is a pioneer dinner and the food should reflect that which was available 150 years ago. This said, if the meat is tough the guests will experience it the way it should be (or rather the way it was). However if I can make a delicious example using the proper cooking method, then I have 60 people walking away wondering why they never tried turtle before. I know the settlers of the area had very limited recources and apparatus for cooking and so became quite skilled at cooking things properly to compensate for the lack of variety.

RM

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Escoffier has recipies, especially for Turtle Soup. He starts with a 120lb live turtle.

He is particular about flavourings "Turtle Herbs":

For 35 quarts:

1oz salt per 5 quarts

12 carrots

bunch of leeks (10 leeks bound with a head of celery)

1lb parsley stalks

8 onions stuck with 10 cloves each

2lbs shallots

1 head garlic

Set to boil for 8 hours.

1 hour before straining add 4 strips lemon peel

"A bunch of herbs for turtle" comprising

Sweet Basil, Sweet Marjoram, Sage, Rosemary, Savory and Thyme, and a bag containing 4 oz coriander seed and 2 oz peppercorns..

You might be able to include some suggestion of the traditional "Turtle herbs" in your presentation.

Editied to add that Turtle soup was a delicacy in earlier times - essentially a very strong consomme with pieces of turtle and the flavouring above. It is occasisonally available canned, famously from John Lusty.

Mock Turtle (beef consomme with the above flavourings) features in Alice in Wonderland

The old kitchens of Trinity College Cambrige are (or were) decorated with turtle shells, each emblazoned with the arms of the college and the date of the feast they were served at.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Sounds fun! When is the dinner!? You might try tenderizing the turtle meat. I s'pose it would be traditional to pound it on a flat rock with an 'arn' skillet!

Bob R in OKC

Home Brewer, Beer & Food Lover!

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A few years ago, my Chinese acupuncturist told me I had to make turtle soup to cure some ailment. I bought the turtle live in an Asian market, had it cleaned by the fish monger (turtle monger?), and cooked it with some curative herbs. I was told by the turtle monger not to let the liquid boil while it cooked for about 3 hours. Unfortunately, I did let it boil. Take his advice: the turlte gives off a terrible smell if it boils.

good luck.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Sounds fun! When is the dinner!?

We will do a pilot dinner later this month for some reporters, historians and the like. In August we will do a couple larger dinners (40-60) for the paying public at Free State Brewing Co. where I am the chef. It will be a charitable event for some local museums and such.

I will also be doing a grass-fed beef dish, a game hen to simulate the unavailable prairie chicken, and some primitive handmade farmers cheese along with some other fun stuff.

I will send you a message when we set the dates if you are interested.

RM

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Escoffier has recipies, especially for Turtle Soup. He starts with a 120lb live turtle.

For 35 quarts:

<snip>

1 hour before straining add 4 strips lemon peel

I wonder what four strips of lemon peel are supposed to do to 35 quarts of broth?

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i went to cooking school in baltimore (a very long time ago...) and we were required to attend the butchering of a terrapin, who was then used to make terrapin soup. congratulations on receiving your meat already butchered, btw, as the vision of that event has never quite left me.

as i remember, the soup was quite tasty, although the meat (in very small bits) was quite tough...but we were after all just a bunch of cooking students!

i think i remember seeing a recipe in the american heritage cookbook, or maybe james beards american cookery (two good references, if you don't happen to have them). good luck!!

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Did anybody mention Turtle Sauce Piquante? You might run this through the Louisiana thread for ideas.

I am just a home cook so I have no idea of measurements for the number you are thinking of, but this goes back in line with your time frame.

In Louisiana it's snapping turtles and loggerheads, I believe.

Now and then I get it when I am in Louisiana from a fish market in Delcambre, Vermilion parish, at a place called Seafood Express. Cut up in nice pieces for you. I have no idea when it is in season, but I learned that alliigator season is September, and this place rocks with its alligator meat!

Suire's Grocery on the highway south of Kaplan (believe me, the only highway south of Kaplan!) serves Turtle Sauce Piquante on Fridays. NY Times wrote them up in 2003. Ooey gooey meaux bundy!

Good luck! Let us know how it turns out!

Edited by My Confusing Horoscope (log)

Scorpio

You'll be surprised to find out that Congress is empowered to forcibly sublet your apartment for the summer.

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My mother has a photo which never fails to bring a smile to her face. Let me set the stage:

When I was about four, and my parents were just in their mid-twenties, we lived on a small back road in rural Nova Scotia. My father went out fishing one day in the shallows of the lake down the road from where we lived (a part of Grand Lake, for those who know the area). Failing to catch any fish, that day, he was intrigued to spot a turtle lounging along the shore. My father was always up for trying something new, so he pounced on the turtle and brought it home in a bag.

He went into the house and announced proudly to my mother that they'd have turtle soup that night, as a special dinner before he went to sea the next day (I'm a Navy brat). He fetched his axe, gave it a few (entirely unnecessary, knowing him) licks with the stone, and plopped the turtle down on the chopping block.

The turtle, knowing what was good for him, hauled all of his extremities into the protection of his carapace, and stayed that way. Dad, for his part, hovered at the chopping block - axe raised - like a vulture waiting for its prey to expire. The standoff lasted for well over an hour. Mom got a picture.

Eventually, the turtle decided (fatally) that the coast was clear; and Dad prevailed. By that time of course, it was much too late to start the soup; so Dad cleaned the turtle according to the instructions in an old cookbook he had, and froze the meat. Unfortunately, while he was at sea, our refrigerator calved and everything in the freezer went out to the garbage in consequence. So, Mom never did get her turtle soup, but she still pulls that picture out once in a while and snickers over it.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Escoffier has recipies, especially for Turtle Soup. He starts with a 120lb live turtle.

I love the line in that recipe that says, "Let it be fleshy and full of life." You are then instructed to flip it on it's back, put a meat hook with a weight in it's jaw, and cut it's throat.

No way, not me. I move turtles on the road in springtime if it doesn't endanger my life. My biggest this year was a thirty pound snapper that got a short ride in a fast machine.

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The turtle, knowing what was good for him, hauled all of his extremities into the protection of his carapace, and stayed that way. Dad, for his part, hovered at the chopping block - axe raised - like a vulture waiting for its prey to expire. The standoff lasted for well over an hour. Mom got a picture.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

That is about the funniest mental image I have had in a long time. What a memory.

Richard... You don't hire turtles, you ride them! There is a picture of me somewhere, about age 3, riding one of the huge tortoises at the zoo.

You might want to see if you can find the turtle soup recipe in a Brennan's book. The recipe itself probably won't help you much because it is somewhat kin to a Louisiana sauce piquant. However, I think I remember reading that they gave some instructions for how to cook the turtle meat. (I don't have the book. I read it at a friend's house.) That soup is one of my favorite foods in the whole world. The meat in there is never tough. That is why I was thinking of it for your purposes.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I tried cooking a 10 inch tortise once with awkward results. After slaughter and fabrication, there was only about 2 oz of what seemed usable meat. It was tough to eat, even after long braising. I guess that was the "tough" and not tender part. What I did find delightful was grilling the liver with a little s/p. As a side note, frog liver is also a delight.

Anyone know how to slaughter a turtle efficently? Also, where does the meat come from? Only the feet and tail (this did not yield much off my small tortise)?

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Your turtle experiment sounds like lots of fun. Please post whatever you decide to do with the results. I love turtle soup, but the only time I made it, it wasn't as good as what I've had in restaurants. However, I recently stumbled onto this recipe, and I'll be making a batch soon. The recipe is from Chef Rick's GumboPages site. I don't know who the guy is, but he has some incredible and authentic recipes on the site. Good luck!

Commander's Palace Turtle Soup au Sherry

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My biggest this year was a thirty pound snapper that got a short ride in a fast machine.

Yes, always cool to find someone who appreaciates John Adams ;).

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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turtle soup i remember is the gelatinous herbal soup with the turtle meat being soft and tendon-like. I used to really enjoy eating turtle soup as a child...till i found out it actually was turtle and not some euphremism for Chicken.

Do not expect INTJs to actually care about how you view them. They already know that they are arrogant bastards with a morbid sense of humor. Telling them the obvious accomplishes nothing.

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I've gotten Turtle flown in from Louisianna for turtle soup. In terms of a historical dinner, There is a recipe for Turtle Soup in a historical cookbook titled "The Lewis & Clark Cookbook - HIstoric Recipes from the corps of discovery & Jeffersons America" by Leslie Mansfield published by Celestial Arts www.tenspeed.com ISBN 1-58761-147-3.

I did a review of the book for a local paper here and tested several of the recipes which came out very well. Both for the turtle soup and other old recipes this might be a good resource.

Charles a food and wine addict - "Just as magic can be black or white, so can addictions be good, bad or neither. As long as a habit enslaves it makes the grade, it need not be sinful as well." - Victor Mollo

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