Saturday, November 6, 2010

How to Dress a Turtle

The First American Cookbook: A Facsimile of "American Cookery," 1796     "Fill a boiler or kettle, with a quantity of water sufficient to scald the callapach* and Callapee*, the fins, &c. and about 9 o'clock hang up your Turtle by the hind fins, cut off the head and save the blood, take a sharp pointed knife and separate the callapach from the callapee, or the back from the belly part, down to the shoulders, so as to come at the entrails* which take out, and clean them, as you would those of any other animal, and throw them into a tub of clean water, taking great care not to break the gall*, but to cut it off from the liver and throw it away, then separate each distinctly and put the guts into another vessel, open them with a small pen-knife end to end, wash them clean, and draw them through a woolen cloth, in warm water, to clear away the slime and then put them in clean cold water till they are used with the other part of the entrails, which must be cut up small to be mixed in the baking dishes with the meat; this done, separate the back and belly pieces, entirely cutting away the fore fins by the upper joint, which scald*; peal off the loose skin and cut them into small pieces laying them by themselves, either in another vessel, or on the table, ready to be seasoned; then cut off the meat from the belly part, and clean the back from the lungs, kidneys, &c. and that meat cut into pieces as small as a walnut, laying it likewise by itself; after this you are to scald the back and belly pieces, pulling off the shell from the back, and the yellow skin from the belly, when all will be white and clean, and with the kitchen cleaver cut those up likewise into pieces about the bigness or breadth of a card; put those pieces into clean cold water, wash them and place them in a heap on the table, so that each part may lay by itself; the meat being thus prepared and laid separate for seasoning; mix two thirds parts of salt or rather more, and one third part of cyanne pepper, black pepper, and a nutmeg, and mace pounded fine, and mixt all together; the quantity, to be proportioned to the size of the Turtle, so that in each dish there may be about three spoonfuls of seasoning to every twelve pound of meat; your meat being thus seasoned, get some sweet herbs, such as thyme, savory, &c. let them be dryed and rub'd fine, and having provided some deep dishes to bake it in, which should be of the common brown ware, put in the coarsest part of the meat, put a quarter pound of butter at the bottom of each dish, and then put some of each of the several parcels of meat, so that the dishes may be all alike and have equal portions of the different parts of the Turtle, and between each laying of meat strew a little of the mixture of sweet herbs, fill your dishes within an inch an half, or two inches of the top; boil the blood of the Turtle, and put into it, then lay on the forcemeat* balls made of veal, highly seasoned with the same seasoning as the Turtle; put in each dish a gill* of Madeira Wine, and as much water as it will conveniently hold, then break over it five or six eggs to keep the meat from scorching at the top, and over that shake a handful of shread parsley, to make it look green, when done put your dishes into an oven made hot enough to bake bread, and in an hour and half, or two hours (according to the size of the dishes) it will be sufficiently done."
(I did change the font to more modern writing, but I kept in the "typos" or spelling/grammar differences from that time period, if you wish to see the original click on the title of the recipe.  I have also included a definition of certain terms with which some people might not be familiar.)

*'d terms: 
Callapach; also, calipash: That part of the turtle adjoining the upper shell; Turtle meat adhering to
the upper shell. 
Callapee; also, calipee: That part of the turtle adjoining the lower shell; Turtle meat adhering to the under shell. 
Forcemeat; also, forced meat: Chopped and ground flesh, usually seasoned and bulked with bread crumbs, oatmeal, and eggs, and used as a filling; or, simply that meat has been forced through a grinder; in other words meatballs.  
Entrails; also, guts: the internal organs of a person or animal.
Gall; also, Gall bladder: it contains bile which tastes extremely bitter and breaking it would transfer that taste to anything the bile came in contact with. 
Gill: A small liquid measure holding one fourth of a pint = 1/2 cup.
Scald: To treat with boiling water (in this case boil it a little so that the skin comes off more easily).

This appears to be a very handy page for definitions of old cooking terms: Feeding America

I don't know if I'll ever run into a situation where I need to "Dress a Turtle," but at least I'll know how to if I ever do!