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Snapper: From field to table, illustrated
Well for all you folks that have asked over the years i have prepaired an illistrated cleaning method i use. This turtle weighed almost exactly 20lbs.
Lets begin. First the turtle needs to be rendered (safe) for handeling. I shot him directly in the head with a .22 cal rifle a couple times and removed the head with an ax. This will heep you with your fingers. Next you need to remove the feet. A snapping turtle can and will continue to move its tail and legs all the way through this cleaning method, this will heep you from being scratched. I removed them by pulling the feet over a peice of wood and cutting off with a blow from a large cleaver.
Now begin with a good sharp knife. You may even need to sharpen during process. Turtle skin is like trying to cut leather. Start by placing the turtle on its back. Poke knife right next to the breast plate. Begin cutting around it as close as you can. Immediatly you will begin to see the protien rich red meat.
Cut the skin loose all the way around this breast plate. (shown in the picture below.)
Now you need to cut the breast plate from the shell. There is a seperation between them and a knife can cut between this or tap it through on the back of the knife with a hammer. Complete this step on both sides.
Now you need to fillet this plate off the turtle. Take your knife and slice along this plate from one side to the other untill it lifts up. (shown in the picture below.
Complete this process untill the plate comes free from the meat. slice as close to the plate as possible. This is the meat you are eating so any meat on the plate is just less for the table. The picture below shows the plate removed.
Now that this is off it needs to be skinned. Cut the skin on the front down the center of the neck all the way to where the head was removed. Shown below in the picture.
Start by taking the skin in your fingers and skinning down toward the shell. This is like skinning a deer. Pull on the skin and slice between it and the meat. As you do this you should come to the hole where the foot was removed. This can be seen in the picture below.
As you get past this area where the foot was begin cutting the skin from the shell under this area. work your way all the way around untill the skin is completly removed from this leg 1/4. illistrated below.
Complete this step on both sides. In the pic below you can see the skin hanging from the top of the neck. This is where you should be after skinning both front leg 1/4's.
Now you need to cut skin from shell under neck and skin all the way off. Now you should be ready to remove the front meat from the turtle. 3 main peices. The neck/ The right and left legs thighs. These I will seperate later. They are large.
You will see some bright yellow blobs suspended in a whiteish gel. This is normal. Its fat. This can be pulled free at any time. It should now be skin free on the front.
Now you can seperate the meat. there are two bones that are visable on the front shoulder area. The picture shows one being lifted up. Lift this up on one side and begin cutting right along the inside of the shell. this section has a bone that goes back to the shell and as you slice free from the shell you will hit this area with the knife.
To remove from shell simply get your knife into the joint where ti connects to the shell and pry up and loose with knife or twist to seperate and continue to cut untill the meat comes free from the shell.
In the pic above you will see how im cutting the meat loose from the shell. Work this around to the neck and cut free.
Last edited by Eithne; 08-30-2007 at 10:13 PM.
This is the front thigh or shoulder and leg. This is a large piece and will be seperated later before freezing.
Simply repete this process on the other side to romove that piece. This will leave you with only the neck. Below you see the front shoulder/leg.
Notice in the picture the clear gel with the bright yellow fat inside. I remove most of this now and finish before freezing.
Now your turtle should look like this. Only the neck remaining on the front 1/2. You should now get a large pan with cold water and 1/2 cup of salt to put meat in. Flies become a problem at this point.
Notice below the neck. there is the windpipe visable . This now needs to be cut out. Remove by cutting it back untill its free of the neck meat.
Below you can see red and white meat in the neck. Some say there 7 different kinds of meat. You can see red white and dark all in the same piece. this gives turtle its flavor.
In the pic below i have laid the neck back toward the rear. The knife point shows where the backbone in the neck connects into the shell. This needs to be cut free with a cleaver or small hatchet. then cut meat free around the neck.
Now you have the neck out. The turtle is 1/2 done. The front meat is now all removed.
Now its time to go to the rear. Begin cutting the skin free from the shell under one side on the rear leg. these will be skinned out like the front.
these rear feet skin out like the front. skin them out and cut skin loose from shell like was done on front cutting at the tail.
This picture shows the turtle skinned out to the tail.
Now its time to finish skinning. Lift the tail and cut through the skin at the shell and skin back to the vent.(rectum.) Now cut the tail off with a cleaver.
In the pic below ive removed one rear leg already. where im pointing you can see a white bone line. Cut down on the outside of this line down toward the shell. You will come to a knuckle. This is much like cutting a chicken thigh from the leg at the joint. Seperate with a knife.
Last edited by Eithne; 08-30-2007 at 10:15 PM.
Now that your turtle has been cleaned and frozen you will need to know a way to cook it without it being tough as these can be just fried in oil.
Here is one fool proof method to put this delicasy on the table where even someone who refuses to eat such things without knowing will be boasting on the meat.
Lets begin. Now that your turtle has defrosted its time to make a breading for the first step that is frying. First grab the wifes measuring cups. This makes an easy breading even for the first timer. Fill the one cup to top with flour. Fill the 1/2 cup with crushed saltine crackers. Fill the 1/3 cup with cornmeal. (in this case yellow cornmeal) The last 1/4 cup fill with seasonings. The more the better. Think KFC. 11 herbs and spices. I used in this case onion powder/garlic powder/crushed basil/parsley/oregano/and some cajun/and jalapeno seasonings. Mix all togather in a large bowl.
Take 2-3 eggs and beat well in another bowl to dredge the meat in first. Heat a large skillet 1/2 full of oil untill hot and a drop of egg immeditaly begins to fry when dropped in. Now your ready for step one in the cooking.
Dredge the meat in the egg and roll and fully coat each peice with breading and immediatly put it in the hot oil.
This frying is NOT to fully cook the turtle. This is just to get a good breading on the meat, Fry for 2-3 minautes and turn to set the breading in the other side. Then let it fry for 7-10 on each side to get the breading brown. Dont worry if its not done.
When the turtle looks like the above pic it can be removed form the oil. Set it on some paper towels and get the crock pot or roster oven out. You will need cream of mushroom/ or perhaps cream of chicken soup. Condensed. No water.
Begin by placing just enough meat into bottom to cover the bottom. In this small pot thats just two. I only prepared 1/2 the turtle i cleaned because i was the only one eating. Still would have served 2 people 2 pieces each or 4 people 1 piece each. There is a front shoulder, a front leg a rear leg and the mixed colored meaty neck. So i still have 5 pieces left in the freezor, and the little white straps. Next top the meat with the condensed soup. Just enough to cover the top. Then add meat again on top of the first layer.
Now you have a meat soup meat layer top the meat again with soup. If you do it in a large roaster oven one meat layer and just top with soup.
Cover the pot and turn to high for 30-40 min to get it hot and then reduce to low. Add 1.8 cup water. just a tad. you just want to keep the bottom from drying out and sticking. After 1- 1/2 hours remove the lid and gently remove the top layer and place aside. Pull out the bottom and rotate the meat placing the top meat soup side up in the bottom and bottom soup side up on top. Not nessassery if it wasnt layered. Recover pot. Repete after 3 -1/2 hours.
After 6 hours in this crock its time to eat. remove the turtle. Save the drippings in the bottom.
Now you can enjoy the turtle. I had grilled asparagus and mashed potatoes with mine. Now thats home cooking. the drippings and soup from the pots bottom makes great gravy on those taters.:wink:
This method makes tough old snappers tender as a beef pot roast. In the pic below you can see with a fork the meat comes apart easily.
This one shows the meat falling from the bone.
The last shows the great white meat thats intertwined through the neck.
Thanks for veiwing snapper from field to table. I hope this will help illistrate for beginners how to clean and prepare a turtle. Mabybe even teach the old times something new. Then one can experiment with new ideas. Lots of people put turtle in soup or stews. I cant knock it cause ive never ate it but i just cant see me putting such great meat in a stew. I like it right on the bone.
in closing i just would like to add that these prehistoric creatures have romed the waters for hundreds apon thousands of years. There are many people out there that enjoy the meat as well as catching them. I just feel like shedding a tear every time i hear a story of someone shooting a 50 pounder and watching it sink to the murky grave. and to think all that meat sinking to the bottom runs $11 a lb at IGA here who can order it for someone.
ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS. :big_smile: