Faux Snapper Soup

snapping turtleCleaning a fresh caught snapping turtle is not for the faint of heart.  Those that have the meddle to catch a snapper and the fortitude to clean him will be rewarded with the spoils.  The real thing is preferable- but when you’re all out of turtle meat I have a recipe that is a good facsimile. 

Erik's Faux Snapper Soup
Erik’s Faux Snapper Soup

Snapping turtles or “snappers”, have been around since the beginning of time… more or less.  Actually, snappers are among the oldest living reptiles and have been roaming the earth for about 200 million years.  Adult snappers weigh in between 15-30 pounds and pack some tasty meat under their shells.  Legend has it there are six distinct meats in a snapper each with its own flavor and texture: beef, veal, venison, chicken, pork, and fish.

To Catch a Snapper

Catching a snapper is the easy part and since most farm ponds harbor the reptiles, it’s not difficult to find a place to fish.  To avoid catching immature turtles, I use big 3.5” hooks with a 1” gape tied to a 20’ length of decoy cord.  Tie the other end of the decoy cord to an empty 1-gallon jug.  You can bait up with any kind of stinky bait but the best bait I’ve found yet is a chunk of road-killed woodchuck.  Toss the entire bait/jug rig out into the deepest part of the pond and wait.

It might take some time but when the empty jug starts bouncing or coursing across the pond’s surface, simply haul it in.  A large snapper will generally take in the entire bait and hook and once on land, he’ll be quite disagreeable.  The only safe way to carry him is by his tail while keeping all appendages at a safe distance from his jaws. Dispatch the turtle “chicken style” by means of a stump and hatchet and place him in a covered tub filled with clean water and ice until ready to clean.


  • Beef shank steak, about 16 oz with bone
  • Equal parts cubed boneless meat, about 8 oz. each:  Venison, beef chuck (optional),  chicken breast,  fresh cod.
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • Minced parsley
  • 12 oz beef broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Old Bay
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Light cream
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry


Season red meats and chicken liberally with Old Bay seasoning, salt & pepper.   Rub the seasoning in well.  Put cod aside to chill.

In a very hot cast iron dutch oven, sear and brown the beef shank in olive oil until caramelized on both sides, then add and brown the remaining red meats and chicken.    Remove meat from pot and deglaze with red wine followed by 4 cups of hot water.  Return meat to pot.  Add bouillon cube.  Simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours until meat falls from shank bone.

Remove meat from pot and set aside to cool, then debone and shred.

In a separate pan, saute sliced onion and carrot slices in olive oil, season with salt & pepper until onion softens.

Return meat to the Dutch oven, add the beef broth, red wine, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the Cod, onion & carrots, squeeze juice of 1/4 lemon, bay leaves, and garlic powder.  Lower heat and simmer for about an hour.

When ready to serve, bring to a boil and thicken with light cream.  Stir in Sherry, cut the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes before eating.  Garnish pot with fresh minced parsley.

Garnish bowl with a pinch of fresh minced parsley and add a splash of Sherry to the serving if desired.

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