Slaughtering the turtle

Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Le Guide Culinaire

By Auguste Escoffier

Published 1903

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The turtles selected for preparing the soup should be approximately 60–80 kg (135–180 lb) in weight; only fleshy and very live turtles should be selected.

To kill the turtle lay it on its back at the edge of the table with the head handing over the side. Take a double meat hook and place one hook into the upper jaw and suspend a sufficiently heavy weight in the hook at the other end so as to make the animal extend its neck. Sever the head from the body quickly, using a sharp, heavy knife.

Hang the turtle over a receptacle to collect the blood, leaving it to bleed for 1–2 hours.

Dismemberment of the turtle

For this operation thrust a heavy knife between the upper shell (carapace) and the lower shell (plastron) exactly where they meet and separate one from the other. Keeping the turtle on its back, remove all the adhering flesh from the plastron and place it on one side.

Now remove the flippers then detach and discard the intestines. The green fat which is used for making the soup must be collected carefully and placed aside. Remove any flesh adhering to the carapace and also reserve for future use.

Preparation of the carapace and plastron

These two parts which constitute the shell of the turtle, alone provide the gelatinous flesh which is used as a garnish for the soup. To prepare, saw the carapace into 6–8 pieces and the plastron into 4; blanch them in boiling water or in a steamer for a few minutes so that the shell can be removed from the flesh.

When the shell has been removed, refresh the pieces of turtle meat in cold water and place them in a pan. Well cover with water, bring to the boil, add a few vegetables as for a marmite and a small quantity of turtle herbs, and cook very gently for 5–6 hours.

Remove the pieces of turtle and discard any bones; refresh the flesh in cold water then carefully trim and cut it into 3–4 cm (1½–1¾ in) squares. These squares of gelatinous flesh and the reserved green fat, poached in salted water and cut into slices, constitute the garnish for the soup.

The cooking liquid from the gelatinous flesh should be reserved for the cooking of the soup as explained further on.

Preparation of the soup

There are two methods for preparing the soup, both giving almost identical results:

Method 1) Prepare a marmite in the usual manner for White Bouillon with the reserved meat of the turtle and vegetables and flavourings; when finished and strained, add an equal quantity of very strong gelatinous Beef Bouillon such as one would do if using tinned turtle soup. This is in effect the most practical method especially if the soup is to be reserved for any length of time.

Method 2) Prepare a bouillon using the same weight of shin of beef as the reserved turtle flesh plus half a calf’s foot and 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) knuckle of veal per 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) beef. Add the reserved turtle meat to the bouillon or keep it for clarifying the soup if necessary; however, this procedure of clarifying is not advised.

As the flavourings and seasoning are the same in both cases the preparation of the first method only will be described in detail as follows: