Historic and Unusual Recipes…Just for fun !!! —- How to Cook a Terrapin (or Turtle)

I’m fascinated with old recipes – old ways of baking and cooking – whether from the Renaissance, Victorian or Colonial times etc. If we think about it for a moment, it hasn’t been all that long since we cooked in stoves or chimneys over wood fires! In fact, it hasn’t been that long since we had to slaughter the animals we were going to prepare. Almost every part of the slaughtered animal was eaten.. the tail, the snout, the stomach lining, and (in the Middle East) the eyeballs, because if you’d put lots of time, effort and, perhaps, money into raising an animal, you didn’t want to waste a thing.

Piggy-Back Turtles!

We slaughtered and ate our animals when we owned our farm in Quebec, although, I must confess I couldn’t eat our pigs….I had given them names and they had come to trust me…

One time we barbequed one of our pigs. We basted it with our own maple syrup and garlic – oooh – did it smell good. But, when it came time to eat, I just couldn’t.

I was, though, able to eat the turkey and Guinea Fowl we raised. In fact, I cleaned and de-feathered a Guinea Fowl not long after we had slaughtered it. (Creepy…. the bird did flop around a good awhile without it’s head….) I’ve made delicious rabbit stews with some of our rabbits. In fact, now that I think of it, I once cooked a wild Snow Goose in some maple syrup and onions…it was really tasty, but a bit tough…(Same thing goes for the Guinea Fowl !)

So – here’s my first post in the “Historic and Unusual Recipes” category –  How to Cook Terrapin (Turtle) – from an old Fanny Farmer Cookbook  Enjoy – that is, if you enjoy reading about unusual recipes!I

In February 2013  I posted How to Cook a Terrapin (a.k.a.Turtle) just “for fun” and informational value because I love to see how (and what) people used to consider “delish” years ago, whether from the 1500s – or the 1900s!  But within a few months I realized many people were, in fact, using this recipe to prepare turtles for eating.

How to Cook a Terrapin (a.k.a. Turtle)
Red-Eared Pond SliderYou will need:   One 6 – 7 inch LIVE terrapin   (Will be enough for two people.)    Plus one carrot, some sliced onion and 1 stalk celery.

In a large pot, plunge the terrapin into boiling salted water and boil for five minutes. Lift terrapin out of water with a skimmer. Remove skin by rubbing briskly with a towel. Pull out the head with a skewer and rub off skin. 

Return terrapin to pot. Add 1 carrot, some sliced onion and 1 stalk of celery. Simmer until feet fall off and shell cracks – about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Once more, remove terrapin from pot, lay it on it’s back and allow to cool only enough to handle. Pull out the nails from the feet.  Cut under the shell close to the upper shell and carefully remove upper shell.

Empty the upper shell and carefully remove and discard sand bags, gall bladder and thick, heavy part of intestines.

Cut terrapin meat  into pieces about 1 1/2′ long.

++  The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the origin of this recipe, advises serving the liver and smaller part of the intestines, cut up small, plus any turtle eggs with the meat. However, you just might not choose to eat those parts…

++  According to Fannie Farmer, “Most terrapin gourmets make no attempt to remove the bones”.

To serve the terrapin “Washington Style”, make a white cream sauce by melting 1 1/2 Tbs. butter, add 1 1/2 Tbs. flour, stir until well mixed, then add 1 cup cream. Simmer mixture, using a whisk if you have one, until thickened.

Add cooked terrapin meat and 1/2 cup sauteed chopped mushrooms. Season to taste.

Just before serving, add two slightly beaten eggs & mix the eggs in well.  (Adding the eggs thickens the white cream sauce – but  – adding the eggs is NOT necessary.)

++  ++  If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more cream.