My only reptilian culinary experience was with alligator fritters, which I found tender and delicious. They were lightly battered, had consistency like fish, but were decidedly more chicken-like in flavor. I was cautiously optimistic that snapping turtle might lend itself to the same mild flavor.
As we got closer to the day when we would actually prepare the turtle, while the kids were huddled around the stock tank admiring it resting benignly beneath the water, I began to lose my nerve about dispatching the thing. It seemed harmless enough, after all. But then the Hubby enlightened me to the well publicized fact that snapping turtles are responsible for maiming cattle every year, as they bite off the teats of wading cows. Well, that did it. With new resolve, I gave the nod and the Hubby began his quest to find a decent way to prepare our new game meat.
Hubby scoured the internet for info on killing, cleaning, and cooking snapping turtle. Thankfully, the southern part of the U.S. is loaded with the things (imagine herds of udderless cows with hungry, frustrated calves) and there are no shortage of hillbillies with video cameras ready to impart their wisdom on YouTube.
First you need a good "whomping stick". You don't actually kill the turtle with the stick, you just "whomp" it in the nose like you're driving a golf ball down the fairway, and then run up to its head while the turtle is seeing stars and decapitate it before it wakes up and takes off your hand.
Once head and turtle are separated, you need a cutting board with a nail protruding from it, sharp side up. That's for sticking the turtle parts on so they don't crawl away while you're slicing the meat off of them. Oh, yeah. Reptile muscles require no connection with a nervous system to continue to operate. That's why snake heads can still bite you after they've been removed from the body. I didn't quite anticipate the impact this uniquely reptilian adaptation would have on me. I usually have a pretty strong stomach for butchering and processing game, but something about limbs recoiling as they're being severed turned even my stomach. I couldn't watch, so there are not many pictures of the processing part.
|Big biting muscles mean there is lots of good meat on the head.|
Once the meat was in the bowl, it could have been mistaken for pork, if it weren't for the fact that the pieces were still twitching. All the pieces went into a soup pot filled with water and were boiled for about 2 hours.
We drained the meat, and Hubby created a batter. As usual, he used every spice in the cabinet so I have no idea how to tell you to reproduce it. Sorry. I did observe him dipping the pieces in egg batter, then rolling them in his seasoned flour, breadcrumb mixture.
Then, we pan fried the nuggets.
Amazingly, the nuggets were delicious. They were decidedly more dense than alligator, with more of a pork-like consistency, and no fishiness. The kids loved it so much they wanted more turtle nuggets for dessert, begging in sing song "we want turtle, we want turtle". And to think we have friends whose kids will only eat peanut butter and jelly.
While I'm fairly certain a chain of Turtle-Fil-A restaurants will not spring up across the U.S., I can confidently state that snapping turtle is indelibly inked onto a growing list of T.E.O.T.W.A.W.K.I. menu items. Who knows, I may even eat it again in a non-starvation survival scenario.