Monday, May 30, 2016

Memories of High School Biology Class

I have always marveled at the intricacies of animals and how they work...both in disposition and mechanic's.
Anyone who has see a horse gallop across a field has to be amazed at the way their muscles work. Or watching bulls fight and tear out fencing without a backward glance. A chicken laying an egg, duckling knowing how to swim at hatching. Miracles all.

Now what has this got to do with biology class you ask?

Snapping turtles!

We have one or maybe two in our pond, a risk if our ducks ever find the pond so we intend to eliminate the problem if we can. Our neighbor has the same problem and he has ducks on his pond. (One of our Cayuga drakes with his mother's Pekin duck have hatched 7.)

We got a knock on the door yesterday and it was Jim. He had something for us, yeppers....a 35 pound freshly killed Snapper!

I had seen photos and actually just seen my first live Snapping Turtle on the way to grocery shop that morning, the males go from pond to pond at this time of year.

Now Jim said it was dead but as I looked at it the legs kept moving, the tail was lashing back and forth and the claws were clenching. Are you sure its dead I asked? He turned it over and showed me the heads shots...Yes it had to be dead.

Ralph looked at me and said: "Well?"

We thanked Jim......gathered my knives and some stainless bowls and took the Turtle, still lashing its tail, down to the workshop. Do you remember dissecting frogs?

Cleaning this turtle brought back all those memories....and a real need for Mr. Shostal the best Biology teacher ever!
Nothing is simple with a turtle.

Anyway I got to work, when we had first discussed trying Snapping turtle I had visited Youtube and watched several quite good videos about them. I knew I had to remove the Plastron or belly plate first and that was quite straightforward except for the continual movement of the muscles. That was just plain weird!

Ralph helped and kept laughing as a part would move and surprise me! He would hold things that needed to be skinned or removed. It went well over all but the tail was still twitching even when the meat was parted out and soaking in clean, cold water with salt.

We soaked the meat overnight in a light brine and  in the morning I washed and rinsed it, trimming and sorting it. 12 pounds of very useful meat...we hoped.

I packaged what we would freeze and kept out a mix of the meat to try for supper. There is very white meat, medium dark and quite dark, they say 11 flavors.....hummmn?

The meat went into a ziplock bag and I added buttermilk, it soaked all day. Then I dredged it in a flour, spice mixture with smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

Since Ralph and I are trying to use less oils and cut down on fats I baked it.

It was very good, not tender tender, it has a bit of al dente to it but we were very pleased. The flavor is uniquely turtle. It DOES not taste like chicken!

So overall our science experiment has been an success, we have found  a meat source to add more variety to our diet. I am looking up things you can do with turtle shell and of course finding more recipes for the meat.

Sometimes you have to put aside misconceptions about food and we are glad we did. This is a good meat and it takes predators out of the pond.

Take care and be brave!


  1. Replies
    1. Your welcome...we need to try things despite the weird science parts of some things!

  2. glad i didn't have to dissect it.
    since the duck ponds have to be cleared of them you may find the neighbors more than glad to fill your freezer with them.
    thnks for info.
    important meat source if things go bad.
    and few people remember this source.
    used to read about tortoise shell hair combs.
    is the carapace the same material as that of tortoise?

    1. I think the shell is the same stuff. I have saved it and now the next project is cleaning it to see what I can do with it.

  3. Interesting Information- If/when I'm blessed with some turtle, think i'll try to can turtle soup.

  4. Whoa. I don't know that I could have handled the constant motion, even while dead. Ersh. I've had turtle before and it was good. There is a large wetland area near me and I constantly see male snapping turtles lumbering across the highway.

  5. Oh dear poor turtle. I could never live your life but I am happy that you are happy. Sort of

    1. Trust me on this one.....a snapping Turtle is not a cute box turtle that eats grass. They eat ducklings, goslings, anything small and floating. Our neighbor shot this one or it would have killed and eaten their ducklings.