My Dad adored snapper soup (yes, as in “snapping turtle”). He had many a bowl through the years during trips to the Philly area while hauling loads of coal with his tractor-trailer. But snapper soup was not only “a Philly thing”; back when I was a kid, it was not unusual to see snapper soup served at block parties, events or picnics. The Pennsylvania Dutch are certainly no strangers to snapper soup with it appearing on many family tables, on diner and restaurant menus in Pa. Dutch country, and in Pa. Dutch cookbooks.
Still available and popular on diner menus in some locations, this turtle soup is different from the Creole-style turtle soup. This version is a thick, brown gravy-like soup made with the meat of the snapping turtle. Its famous Philadelphia connection comes thanks to the now-defunct Philly restaurant Old Original Bookbinder’s (which now exists only as a foods division and still sells its snapper soup in a can), where it was finished table-side with sherry to taste. Although Bookbinder’s may have cemented the connection of snapper soup and Philadelphia, the soup originated in the early eighteenth century City of London.
Depending on what area of the country (US) you live in, you might be able to get turtle meat (fresh or frozen works – if frozen, thaw completely before using) from a butcher or exotic meat supplier although I admit, you aren’t likely to find it as easily as a rump roast. Amazon even sells it; it arrives at your door frozen, packed in ice packs, but you might not be able to justify the $170 for a 5-pound pack for a soup ingredient (although, you might…I don’t judge…I have been known to go to some strange extremes when I get an urge to cook or bake something)
For those who cannot find turtle meat or wish to use a substitute, a friend of this blog, Chris, used beef heart minced in the food processor and tells me the results were delicious and enjoyed by all!
This is a very “PA/Coal Region/Pennsylvania Dutch” dish; go ahead and give it a try with either the turtle or beef heart!
Snapper SoupCourse: SoupsCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
This soup, traditionally made with meat from a snapping turtle is very “Pennsylvania”
2 pounds turtle meat, diced (may substitute 2 pounds beef heart, minced in a food processor)
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cups onion, diced
3/4 cups celery, diced
3/4 cups carrot, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 cups beef stock
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1/3 cup sherry
Fresh parsley, chopped as garnish
- In a large pot, melt 1/2 cup butter then add the turtle meat. Saute to brown, and season with salt and pepper. Cook the meat for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the celery, onion, carrots, and garlic, and season with the paprika and oregano. Sauté the vegetables for another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the beef stock, and bring to a boil. Cook the for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the remaining butter and whisk in the flour to form a roux. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring to make a pale roux. Set aside to cool.
- Once the roux has cooled, slowly add a cup of the soup to the roux, stirring well to combine. Then, whisk the lightened roux back into the remaining soup. Simmer for 20 minutes to thicken to a gravy consistency.
- Add the Worcester sauce and sherry (or serve sherry on the side to add to taste).
- Garnish with parsley.
- Beef heart, minced in a food processor, may be substituted for the snapper meat.