I readily admit that snapping turtle isn’t exactly a common thing for most folks to eat these days, but it used to be. Back when folks got most of their food from the woods and water, snapping turtles were eagerly caught and consumed. For good reason, too; they taste delicious.
Maybe you question your friends’ and family’s readiness for turtle meat? Try this deep-fried version to ease them into it. Everyone likes fried things.
Meat from one dressed snapping turtle
½ cup white vinegar
2 quarts of water
1½ cups flour
½ cup corn meal
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Vegetable or peanut oil for deep frying
Turtle meat can be tough, but there are a couple of ways to get around this when you fry it. The first involves frying the meat first, then wrapping it in foil and placing it in a cooler or slow cooker to basically steam itself for an hour or two. The trouble with this method is that it makes the breading on the turtle meat soft and a bit mushy. This method, the second option, slow simmers the turtle pieces on the bone first, then the meat gets deboned, dipped in egg wash, and rolled in flour and deep-fried. This method gives tender meat with a crispy, crunchy coating.
Start by adding the vinegar to two quarts of water in a heavy pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the turtle meat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Place the lid on the pot and simmer the meat for one hour. Remove the turtle pieces from the pot and allow to cool.
Pick the meat away from the bone, preferably in bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a heavy pot.
While the oil heats, mix the flour, cornmeal, and Cajun seasoning together in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with a couple tablespoons of water to make an egg wash.
Dip the pieces of turtle into the egg wash, then toss in the flour mixture. Allow the pieces to rest for five minutes to set the coating on the meat. Once the oil comes to temperature, drop the meat into the pot, one at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pot and lower the oil temperature.
Fry for five minutes until the crust is golden brown and the turtle floats to the top. Remember that the turtle is already cooked through; you just want to crisp the coating.
Move each batch of finished turtle to a paper-lined platter while you cook the next batch. Serve the turtle by itself or with your favorite dipping sauce.
Serves five. Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 90 minutes.
Michael Pendley is the man behind Timber-2-Table, Realtree’s online collection of game recipes and preparation methods. For more from Timber-2-Table, check out their website today.