For those of us brave enough to tap into the underutilized resource of the snapping turtle fishery, there is a prime piece of meat locked into the underside of the turtles shell. After you process the turtle, which you can read about here, and have a bare shell you can see what look like modified rib bones. If you clip these out and take your time and use a thin, flexible fillet knife you can pluck out two of these 8″ long, prime white meat backstraps. I think backstraps from anything are going to be good.
Backstraps from a single turtle are enough for one person to eat. You can either process a couple turtles at a time, or maybe easier is to save and freeze backstraps over two or three turtles.
Turtle has a funky smell, I’m the first one to admit it. But don’t go by just the smell alone. If you can get past it, there is some good eating to be had. I do not advocate soaking meat in water, milk or other concoctions. But in the case of some fish and in this case turtle, it seems to work. I soak the turtle fillets in well salted water overnight. I also let the fillets rest two or three days after that.
On fry day, there are two pieces of silver skin in the middle of the back straps. You need to carve them out. If you do it right you don’t have to cut through the whole thing. You can get it from one side and slip it out.
Once done, I use a meat mallet and saran wrap to pound them briefly. Don’t mash them, but some of these turtles can be old. Give them a good wacking. Even though this is the prime cut on a turtle, they have a spongy texture. I wouldn’t call it tough though. I hate to say it, since it is such a worn out cliche, but it tastes like chicken. But, I find it more like a cross between chicken and firm, meaty fish. With a spongy texture.
After the tenderizing, cut them into nuggets. Size of your choosing. I like my breading simple. I don’t too much like cornmeal and I don’t like bread crumbs. I don’t like wet batter either. I like a thin breading. Crush up a whole sleeve of Saltines. Fairly fine consistency, you don’t want big chunks. Mix up two eggs. Eggwash your turtle nuggets. Then, dredge in crackermeal. A ziplock or large tupperware makes for a clean, quick breading. As an alternative to crackermeal, Panko breadcrumbs are damn good and will surprise you. I was out for this recipe.
I pan fry everything. I don’t use a deep fryer. I like my No 10 Wagner cast iron skillet with 3/4″ grease in it. I don’t use vegetable oil. I like peanut oil, or coconut oil. I like to fry up a nice batch of fries, which I fry first. They take longer. Put them in a bowl lined with paper towels and salt them.
Then throw the turtle in. It’s going to take a few minutes a side. Maybe as much as 5min a side. Brown them to your own preference. I like to serve with a little side like pickled beets, or red sauerkraut. Pretty good eating for survival food. At lease we know that if hard times come, we will be able to make a good living off the fat of the land.
Snapper Nuggets or Fried Snapper Backstrap
- backstraps from at least 1 turtle
- 1 sleeve Saltine crackers, crushed fine by hand
- 2 eggs, beaten
- enough peanut oil to make 3/4″ in your skillet
- good helping of fries, I like crinkle fries
- side helping of pickled beets or sauerkraut
- Salt water soak your turtle backstraps 24hrs, then rinse, let rest covered at least 2 days, 3 is better.
- On day of cooking, slip out silver skin with sharp knife
- Cut meats in nuggets
- Eggwash nuggets and then bread in cracker meal
- Pan fry french fries first and then turtle
- Serve with condiment of your choice. I like ketchup with most of my fried food. Cocktail sauce would work well too.