Thursday, May 31, 2007

My rural, southern education, part 3

"If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way."
~Mark Twain

Please begin this story by reading part 1.

Afraid that my traveling companion would soon appear beneath my feet from under the seat, the drive home took on a new urgency.
The term “from soup to nuts” took on a new meaning.
And, I just wanted to get home.

Despite her seemingly indestructible nature, the turtle had, in fact, received a fatal blow. I had resolved to release her if I discovered she was able, but her injuries were far beyond that. It seemed best to end this quickly. And I did.

Determined to make the best of this messy situation, and still seeking the gourmet dinner I'd been dreaming of, I did see this through to its conclusion. The recipe for Turtle Soup follows, as do my lessons learned in the process.

Lessons learned:
There are leeches on the skin of snapping turtles.
If you handle snapping turtles for prolonged periods, as might be necessary for preparing soup, there will be leeches on you.
Leeches are difficult to remove.
A creature that has spent years living in the bottom of a pond, smells like the bottom of a pond.
If you cook this creature, your entire kitchen will smell like the bottom of a pond.
After spending hours preparing soup from a snapping, leech-covered, foul-smelling prehistoric reptile, you will have absolutely no desire to eat Turtle Soup.

Turtle Soup au Sherry
10 ounces (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound turtle meat, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup minced celery (4 stalks)
2 medium leeks, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups tomato purée
1 quart beef stock
NOTE: If turtle bones are available, add them to the beef bones when making the stock for this dish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, as needed
1/2 cup lemon juice
5 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced parsley
6 teaspoons dry sherry

Melt 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the roux is light brown. Set aside.
In a 5-quart saucepan, melt the remaining butter and add turtle meat. Cook over high heat until the meat is brown. Add celery, onions, garlic and seasonings, and cook until the vegetables are transparent.
Add tomato purée, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the roux and cook over low heat, stirring, until the soup is smooth and thickened. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice, eggs and parsley.
Remove from heat and serve. At the table, add 1 teaspoon sherry to each soup plate.

I never ate my Turtle Soup that day, or any other.
I've decided the snappers deserve their place in my pond--and we'll leave it at that!

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KGMom said...

OK--thanks--I will take your comments to heart. No turtle soup for me. I mean, I think you had me at the leech part.
But thanks. . .

Susan Gets Native said...

You have my awe and respect.
You're like a cave woman, bringing the kill back to the fire.
And you didn't eat it. Don't blame ya.

cestoady said...

Lucky you !!

Since snapping turtles can live a long time (est. 30-40 yrs) are omniverous and at the end of the foodchain, they can accumulate large amounts of PCBs,pesticides,herbicides, heavy metals -- whatever. They can therefore be hazardous to one's health -- to say the least.

The leeches and mucky smell did you a favor.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

You are a brave gal for even starting out on this mission! Stopping to pick up the turtle, having it creep around your back seat, having to help it die, plucking the leaches- you are one tough cookie! I wouldn't have eaten it either.

MojoMan said...

This reminds me of the story about I guy I knew in college that finished off a car-struck whitetail with a pocket knife, tied it over the hood of his VW bug, drove it home and butchered it in his dorm room. I'm sure he ate every bit.

When I lived in Florida, there were all kinds of roadkill jokes. One suggested spray-painting circles around all the roadkill you found on the way to work. On the way home, anything without a circle was fresh.

Did you really go to all the trouble and then not even taste it? I give you credit for trying..I think. I know I couldn't do it.

Dorothy said...

Nina I have new respect for you!
My DH LOVES snapper soup but I could never bring myself to eat it. Now I know why...(leaches, pond smell, etc., and of course the new information about pesticides that Cestoady wrote above. I will, however, rescue turtles that are crossing the road.
Your turtle soup adventure is almost enough to turn me into a vegetarian. :o)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I enjoyed your Snapper Lesson. Oh my gosh I laughed out loud.

I too had a Snapper lesson when I was much younger. I watched some men kill a snapper to prepare it for soup and have never eaten a bite since. UGH...

If meat wasn't readily available at the grocery I probably wouldn't eat it.

Jackie said...

Your turtle story had me entranced and laughing. I could never take roadkill and cook it up. There's something about wild things that makes me just want them wild and free, even if dead. Pond scum soup sounds horrid smelling. I bet you are supposed to remove the outside skin and use just the insides. Maybe even soak the flesh in a bowl of salt water or something else for a day, first.

Debbie said...

Nina, I came here for SWF and have been here half an hour reading your stories! Fred, the noise you couldn't find and then the turtle soup...Oh my!

I wish you could see all the expressions that have appeared on my face! I love it here...will be adding you to favorites and come back soon!

Wonderful writer you are and God Bless you...thank you for sharing!

Rambling Woods said...

We too have snapping turtles in our pond. I try to respect all animals, but I have seen too many waterfowl grabbed and drowned to be eaten. I'm not that crazy about them. You could probably send a few hunters this way for their turtle soup prize. I too read that they accumulate a lot of poisons in their systems..

Heather said...

Nina, I'm just now catching up on this series thanks to your interview on NBN. What an experience! Thank you for sharing it - and your reverence for the snapper - with us.

Unknown said...

Although I don't advocate eating snapping turtles, I hear it's beneficial to keep turtles for a month or two before cooking them. During this time, they should be fed corn, or otherwise innocuous item. This allows them to flush out everything that we may not find as palatable.

I recommend "The Culinary Herpetologist" as a good read, but I can't condone actually using the recipes.