Monday, June 18, 2012

On The Turtle Free Tandy Hills Thinking About Making Turtle Soup

In the picture you are looking west to where the west begins at the stunning skyline of beautiful downtown Fort Worth from atop one of the Tandy Hills.

In turtle news, the Tandy Turtle that yesterday had taken up residence in a small puddle at the base of dry Tandy Falls has moved on. I tried to track the Tandy Turtle but I could find not trackable turtle footprints.

Or maybe someone had a hankering for Turtle Soup and brought the Tandy Turtle home for dinner.

Speaking of Turtle Soup, I was curious if such a thing really existed, having heard of Turtle Soup, and sort of always assuming turtle was not really used in this soup, but for some reason it came to have the name "Turtle Soup."

Well, as I so often am, I was wrong.

I now have in my possession a Turtle Soup Recipe, complete with instructions about how to butcher a turtle for eating purposes.

The turtle cooking information came from The Household Cyclopedia of General Informationpublished in 1881, a handbook of the domestics arts as practiced in American households at that point in time. For some reason the instructions as to how to prepare a turtle refers to the reptile as fish. The butchering info and Turtle Soup Recipe is below, all one big paragraph, in case you feel like having reptile for dinner tonight.....

Procure a fine, lively, fat turtle, weighing about 120 pounds, fish of this weight being considered the best, as their fat is not liable to be impregnated with that disagreeable, strong flavor objected to in fish of larger size. On the other hand, turtles of very small size seldom possess sufficient fat or substance to make them worth dressing. When time permits kill the turtle overnight that it may be left to bleed in a cool place till the next morning when at an early hour it should be cut up for scalding, that being the first part of the operation. If, however, the turtle is required for immediate use, to save time the fish may be scalded as soon as it is killed. The turtle being ready for cutting up, lay it on its back, and with a large kitchen-knife separate the fat or belly-shell from the back by making an incision all round the inner edge of the shell, when all the fleshy parts adhering to the shell have been carefully cut away, it may be set aside. Then detach the intestines by running the sharp edge of a knife closely along the spine of the fish, and remove them instantly in a pail to be thrown away. Cut off the fins and separate the fleshy parts, which place on a dish by themselves til wanted. Take particular care of every particle of the green fat, which lies chiefly at the sockets of the fore-fins, and more or less all round the interior of the fish, if in good condition. Let this fat, which, when in a healthy state, is elastic and of a bluish color while raw, be steeped for several hours in cold spring-water, in order that it may be thoroughly cleansed of all impurities; then with a meat-saw divide the upper and under shells into pieces of convenient size to handle and baying put them with the fins and head into a large vessel containing boiling water, proceed quickly to scald them; by this means they will be separated from the horny substance which covers them, which will then be easily removed. They must then be put into a larger stockpot nearly filling with fresh hot water and left to continue boiling by the side of the stove fire until the glutinous substance separates easily from the bones. Place the pieces of turtle carefully upon clean dishes and put them in the larder to get cold, they should then be cut up into pieces about an inch and a half square; which pieces are to be finally put into the soup when it is nearly finished. Put the bones back into the broth to boil an hour longer, for the double purpose of extracting all their savor and to effect the reduction of the turtle broth, which is to be used for filling up the turtle stockpot hereafter. In order to save time, while the above is in operation, the turtle stock or consomme should be prepared as follows: With 4 ounces of fresh butter spread the bottom of an 18 gallon stockpot; then place in it 3 pounds of raw ham cut in slices; over these put 40 ounce of leg of beef and knuckles of veal, 4 old hens (after having removed their fillets, which are to be kept for making the quenelles for the soup); to these add all the fleshy pieces of the turtle (excepting those pieces intended for entres), and then place on the top the head and fins of the turtle; moisten the whole with a bottle of Madeira and 4 quarts of good stock, add a pottle of mushrooms, 12 cloves, 4 blades of mace, a handful of parsley roots and a good-sized bouquet of parsley tied up with 2 bay leaves, thyme, green onions and shallots. Set the consomme thus prepared on a brisk stove fired to boil sharply, and when the liquid has become reduced to a glaze fill the stockpot up instantly, and as soon as it boils skim it thoroughly, garnish with the usual complement of vegetables, and remove it to the side of the stove to boil gently for 6 hours. Remember to probe the head and fins after they have been boiled 2 hours, and as soon as they are done drain them on a dish, corer them with a wet napkin well saturated with water to prevent it from sticking to them, and put them away in a cool place with the remainder of the glutinous parts of the turtle already spoken of. The stockpot should now be filled up with the turtle broth reserved for that purpose as directed above. When the turtle stock is done strain it off into an appropriate-sized stockpot, remove every particle of fat from the surface, and then proceed to thicken it with a proportionate quantity of flour to the consistency of thin sauce. Work this exactly in the same manner as practised in brown sauce, in order to extract all the butter and scum, so as to give it a brilliant appearance. One bottle of old Madeira must now be added, together with a puree of herbs of the following kinds, to be made as here directed: Sweet basil must form one-third proportion of the whole quantity of herbs intended to be used; winter savory, marjoram and lemon-thyme in equal quantities, making up the other two-thirds; add to these a double-handful of green shallots and some trimmings of mushrooms; moisten with a quart of broth, and having stewed these herbs for about an hour rub the whole through the tammy into a purse. This purse being added to the soup, a little Cayenne pepper should then be introduced. The pieces of turtle, as well as the fins, which have also been out into small pieces rend the larger bones taken out, should now be allowed to boil in the soup for a quarter of an hour, after which carefully remove the whole of the scum as it rises to the surface. The degree of seasoning must be ascertained that it may be corrected if faulty. To excel in dressing turtle it is necessary to be very accurate in the proportions of the numerous ingredients used for seasoning this soup. Nothing should predominate, the whole should be harmoniously blended. Put the turtle away in four-quart-sized basins, dividing the fat (after it has been scalded and boiled in some of the sauces) in equal quantities into each basin, as also some small quenelles, which are to be made with the fillets of hens reserved for that purpose, and in which, in addition to the usual ingredients in ordinary cases, put 6 yolks of eggs boiled hard. Mould these querelles into small, round balls, to imitate turtles' eggs, roll them with the hand on a marble slab or table, with the aid of a little flour, and poach them in the usual way. When the turtle soup is wanted for use warm it, and just before sending it to table add a small glass of Sherry or Madeira and the juice of one lemon to every four quarts of turtle. The second stock of the turtle consomme should be strained off after it has boiled for two hours, and immediately boiled down into a glaze very quickly and mixed in with the turtle soup previously to putting it away in the basins, or else it should be kept in reserve for the purpose of adding proportionate quantities in each tureen of turtle as it is served. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your non southern gastronomical upbringing is on display. 1881? Most all my semi current regional cookbooks (particularly the Louisianaians) include such delicacies and are much less complicated.
Perhaps it is still served in New Orleans restaurants though I can't recall my last pre Katrina visit.
What I do recall is my first and only taste experience as a child with my parents. A nice Miami restaurant. Tanks of live fish and sea turtles from which you assumed your meal had been captured earlier.
Turtle soup in the late 60's-early 70's was still popular in the poor rural areas of the south. If you snagged a turtle while fishing; it went home for dinner. The sophisticated city palate liked it too. The rest of us shuddered.
Maybe you should visit a big Asian grocery store and see what they're doing these days.