Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The one that got away!

I didn’t realize what I was passing up when I simply photographed the weird critter just outside my house. I was sat looking out the window when something caught my eye – like a big tortoise with a long tail. I had seen one before when I was driving so I didn’t get a proper look. I grabbed my camera and went out to meet him. (too ugly to be female) It stopped. An inquisitive turtle! That or I was too much of an obstacle for it to walk over- it was on a path from which it did not deviate! It climbed up a big curb stone when inches to its left the curb ended. Turtle brains are tiny! We saw turtle skulls at the NC aquarium and there was hardly any space for a brain at all! It didn’t have much sense! If I had any sense I wouldn’t have let it get away!
I looked it up on line. It was a Snapping turtle - the largest freshwater turtle in North Carolina. The most weird bit was its long tail, which is saw-toothed along the top. It was about 12 inches not including its tail!
They spend most of their time in water but females nest on land. Perhaps it was a girl turtle after all or a male looking for some meat! They are apparently fond of road kill and will quite happily munch on carrion. They are frequently hit by cars - perhaps whilst eating road kill. Little brains! Not very bright!
They are aggressive and will bite, especially if taken out of the water. One man on line said:

I learned about turtles from my parents who learned from their German immigrant fathers. It has been told in family circles that my maternal grandfather would catch snapping turtles by hand. I never saw him do it because he was hit and killed by a truck when I was about nine years old. It was a big loss for me because he was just starting to teach me about turtles, wild mushrooms, dandelions and other natural things

I wondered if he was hit by a truck collecting turtles who were eating road kill. I could have caught this one by hand. It doesn’t seem such an amazing feat given their speed. Perhaps you have to experience a turtle bite to appreciate the skill of catching a turtle! They will attack people. Next time I go photographing a weird critter I might check out its credentials first! Luckily it didn’t attack me and I figured I could run away faster than it could pursue me. It just looked at me with its little beady eyes. It stayed still (in the middle of the road) until I was back in the house!
Snapping turtles have an average life span of 30-40 years if they can avoid mad German Grampas, cars and trucks and Turtle soup! People sharing ideas on a  website aimed at making their money go further would not have let the turtle stroll on by. This is a conversation I found with only the names changed (like Billy Bob says – ‘couldn’t have made this one up if I tried) I daren’t include a link in case it somehow leads these people to me…:
Billy Bob: Getting really stretchy here...Cuz's drinking buddies just brought in a snapping turtle and are butchering it in the kitchen sink.  I've persuaded them that the meat has to be soaked in salt water overnight, to buy me some time.  Not much meat on those critters.  Cuz can't have bell peppers or much onion, so that leaves out Cajun.  Anyone out there got a favorite recipe?  One site said that alligator and turtle recipes are interchangeable. I'm leaning toward the Palace turtle soup recipe just because a restaurant that expensive has to have good recipes. I'm not joking--couldn't have made this one up if I tried. It's been weeks since they've brought in catfish or bluegill.  We had neighbors who hit a deer but they were too innocent to bring the animal back for me to cook.
Bobby Bill: Oh, this brings back some memories.  :-)  Years ago, my dad brought home a soft shelled turtle or two and momma put it in the crockpot.  Tasted just like chicken.  :-)  Anyway, I happen to have a recipe book with game recipes... hope this helps. By the way, this recipe book has recipes for ALL TYPES of game/road kill.  I'm serious!  It has baked rattlesnake, smothered crow; simmered coot; duck, quail, phesant, squirrel, rabbit, bever tail, armadillo, possum, raccoon, porcupine, moose, venison, and buffalo.  If you need recipes, let me know... I hate to have them sit on the shelf unused. 
Billy Bob: Thank you!  I never know what these guys will bring in next.  I'm imploring for venison, since I can put it up in jars and pressure canning tenderizes it.  Now, I have to figure out how to clean the shell.  Last time I tried this, it was a Cherokee mud turtle shell--black with beautiful, vivid red markings--from a found corpse.  I put it into an anthill on some ex-Scout's advice. A fire ant hill, and some truly desperate dog or possum dragged it out for a meal. I never found the remains.   This shell probably will end up as a wall hanging somewhere. I can sell any turtle shell for $10-20 at the flea market, and a tanned roadkill coon tail will bring $3-5.

Does eating Turtles cause very small brains or do people with very small brains eat turtle? I couldn't work on if they were male or female!
So if ever I come across a turtle again – or indeed if you do – here’s what ‘Earl’ advises before you select your recipe:

ü   To butcher a turtle you start by chopping off the turtle's head. Be careful because the head will still bite even after it is removed from the body and the body will still crawl away after the head is removed. Turtles don't die right away.
ü      When the body stops trying to crawl away, dip it in boiling water and scrape off the exterior layer of skin, including the shell. The result will be a bright white carcus, compared to the muddy brown-green you started with.
ü      Next step is to remove the shell. Cut along grove on each side between the front and back legs. It is the narrowest part of the shell. The tail, neck and all four legs are attached to the top of the shell. Remove from shell and you have the bulk of the meat. However, there will be some meat on the bottom shell and top shell.
ü      It is at this point that you remove the fat. Just roll back the skin and with a paring knife and your index finger scrape out the fat.

Good luck with your turtle soup. Just cook it long with lots of vegetables and it will be good if you removed all of the fat. – Earl

MMMmmm! thanks for that Earl. That must surely work up an appetite! Just one or two recipes here after you have Beheaded and eventually killed your turtle:
Cut turtle in small pieces, wash and drain. Flour and salt turtle, fry in hot oil until golden brown. Put fried turtle in Reynolds wrap and place in heavy pan or roaster. Bake 350 degrees for about 2 hours or until tender.

Cook 3 pounds of turtle meat. Remove from bones, keep broth. Chop into small pieces. Chop 6 hard cooked eggs up fine. Heat 8 quarts of milk, 1/4 pound of butter; add salt and pepper. Add meat, eggs. Do not boil. Add broth with milk.

If you are not local I bet you are just so jealous of me- living in this strange land and having all these opportunities open to me – with great advice from some super folk! Why on earth would I want to fly home tomorrow?


  1. I actually fancy the simmered coot!

  2. You know what to cook when you next go to an American theme dinner party.Perhaps you could send BobbyBill your recipe.

  3. I can deal with poopy diapers and kids pooping on the carpet and having to clean it up. the visual I got from that recipe I can't handle. wow. lol