Turtle Soup

This recipe was transcribed directly from:

Eliza Leslie Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt Book (Philadelphia, PA: A. Hart, Late Carey and Hart, 1850). P. 34-37

To Dress a Turtle

The turtle should be taken out of water, and killed over night in winter, and early in the morning in summer. Hang it up by the hind fins, and before it has had time to draw in its neck, cut off its head with a very sharp knife, and leave the turtle suspended. It should bleed two or three hours or more, before you begin to cut it up. Then lay it on its back upon a table: have at hand several vessels of cold water, in which to throw the most important parts as you separate them; also a large boiler of water. Take off the fins at the joint, and lay them by themselves in cold water; next divide the back-shell from the under-shell. The upper part of the turtle is called the calipash – the under part the calipee. In cutting open the turtle, be very careful not to break the gall, which should be taken out and thrown away; it broken, its bitterness will spoil all around it. Take out the entrails, and throw them into a tub of cold water. When well washed, open them from end to end with a small penknife, scrape off the inside skin, and to cleanse them thoroughly, draw them several times through a woolen cloth. Wash, also, the liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, & c., and lay them in cold water; the liver in a pan by itself. If there are eggs, put them also into cold water. Having extracted the intestines, stand up the turtle on end, to let the blood run out. Afterwards cut out all the flesh from the upper and under shells, and remove the bones. Cut the calipee (or meat belonging to the under-shell) into pieces about as large as the palm of your hand, and break the shell. The calipash, or meat next the back-shell, may be cut smaller – the green fat into pieces about two inches square. Put all the meat into a large pan, sprinkle it slightly with salt, and cover it up. Lay the shells and fins in a tub of boiling water, and scald them till the scales can be scraped off with a knife, and all the meat that still adheres to the shells easily removed, as it is worth saving. Clean the fins nicely, (taking off the dark skin,) and lay them in cold water. Wipe the backshell dry, and set it aside.

Then proceed to make the soup. For this purpose, take the coarser pieces of flesh with the bones and entrails. Put them into a pot with a pound of ham cut into pieces, and eight large calves’ –feet (two sets) that have been singed and scraped but not skinned. If you cannot conveniently obtain calves’ -feet, substitute a large fore-leg or knuckle of veal. Add four onions sliced thin; two tablespoonfuls of sweet-marjoram leaves; a large bunch of parsley; a dozen blades of mace; and a salt spoon of cayenne. The ham will make any other salt unnecessary. Pour on as much water as will completely cover the whole, and let it simmer slowly over a steady fire during five hours, skimming it well. If after a while the soup seems to be boiling away too much, replenish it with a little hot water from a kettle, kept boiling hard for the purpose. When it has simmered five hours, take up the whole, and strain the soup through a sieve into a deep pan. Wash out the soup-pot with hot water, and return the strained soup to it, with the entrails cut into small pieces, and some of the best of the meat and a portion of the green fat. Have ready two or three dozen force-meat balls about the size of a boy’s marble and made of the usual proportions of minced veal, bread crumbs, butter, grated lemon-peel, mace, nutmeg, and beaten yolk of egg. Put them into the soup, and let it boil an hour longer; also the eggs of the turtle or some hard-boiled yolks of eggs. After it has thus boiled another hour, add two sliced lemons and a pint of Madeira. Boil the soup a quarter of an hour longer, and it will then be ready for the tureen. It must never boil hard.

In the mean time, stew in another pot the finest of the turtle meat, seasoned with a little salt, and cayenne, and a liberal allowance of sweet-marjoram leaves rubbed fine, and mixed with powdered mace and nutmeg. Add a pound of fresh butter, cut into quarters and rolled in flour. When the turtle meat has stewed an hour, put in the green fat, add the grated peel, and juice of two lemon, and a pint or more of Madeira, and let the whole stew slowly an hour longer. While the meat is stewing, take the shell off the back; wash it clean, and wipe it dry, lay a band of puff-paste all around the inside of the shell, two inches below the edge, and two inches above it. Notch the paste handsomely, and fill the shell with the stewed turtle. Have ready the oven, heated as if for bread. Lay a large iron baking-sheet or a square pan upon four bricks (one at each corner) to elevate the shell from the floor of the oven. Place on it the turtle-shell with its contents, and let it bake till well browned on the surface. Send it to table in the shell placed on a large dish. At the other end set the tureen of soup. Have ready as two side dished the fins stewed tender in a little of the soup; and the liver fried in butter. Garnish with lemons cut in half.

This receipt is for a turtle of moderate size. A large one will of course require an increase proportion of all the articles used in seasoning it – more wine, & c. In serving up turtle at a dinner-party, let it constitute the first course, and have no other dishes on table with it. There is no need of any other fish or soup.

Turtle Soup

Adapted from Eliza Leslie Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt Book, 1850


  • 1 lb turtle meat lean stewing beef may be substituted
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1/3 cup diced carrot
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 qt beef stock
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cream sherry
  • 1/4 tsp pickling spice


  1. Place turtle or beef in stock pot with 1.5 quarts of water. Bring to a rapid boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is tender. Skim the scum off and discard.

  2. Strain meat from stock. Dice meat into 1/4 inch pieces. Set aside and cover the meat with foil. Set the stock aside and allow to cool slightly.

  3. Sweat vegetables in butter until onions are translucent. Add beef stock.

  4. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup water into paprika and flour until smooth. Add tomato puree and spices.

  5. Stir in reserved stock until well blended. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 2 to 2.5 hours.

  6. Strain the soup. Place the vegetables into a food processor or blender and puree.

  7. Create a slurry with cornstarch and the remaining water. Add to the soup and cook, slowly stirring until stock is thickened.

  8. Add meat and vegetable puree.

  9. Remove from the heat. Add sherry before serving.