I must warn you that this is "graphic". I can't see why knowing where your food comes from and how it got to your plate became "graphic", but I felt I should warn those kind who look at me in disbelief when I tell them those cows standing there staring at us are steak and hamburger. I'm not trying to be sarcastic but it sincerely pisses me off that 5-year-olds and 40-year-olds alike have looked at me incredulously when I tell them hamburger comes from cows. So if you don't like seeing how food becomes food, don't keep reading. I do not want angry PETA people blowing up my email. :)
Like I said I was naive about the turtle-cleaning business. Luckily every time Wood has got one this old girl has been at work when he's cleaned it. And the boy had to help. This time, the boy got smart and went to an all-weekend football camp.
First off, this is not a one person job. Woody has done it himself, and he has also laid his knuckle wide open doing it with help. Do this outside! There are leaches on these suckers and its messy. Keep your kids and animals away and in the house. Make sure you have all this ready to go:
- a sturdy, large cutting board
- and extra set of hands
- gloves for your wife because there is no way she's touching it without them. And she's a nurse. She's saw all kinds of nasty and weird. And she
- a five gallon bucket to throw all the stuff you don't want in.
- a couple very sharp knives. You don't want to stop halfway through to sharpen them. Take it from me.
- a working garden hose.
- a large bowl
- a pair of plyers
The first thing is you don't butcher a turtle right away. And this goes for hardshell turtle only. Wood has no idea about softshelled. You put them in something fairly large with water over them. You have to put a board and something heavy on it so they can't get out. Then you change that water every day for about a week or so to "clean out" the turtle. Be very friggin' careful doing this. They maybe be slow, but their necks are way longer than you think and they are fast.
After about a week or so or when the water stays fairly clear, your ready. Make sure you got all this stuff ready to go. Wood just put his cutting board on the tailgate and it worked ok.
Tip the barrel over containing the turtle and be careful!
Pick it up by it's tail. For the love of all that's holy they are called snappers for a reason and that beak is going to put the hurting on you. If you happen to get bit, Wood told me once about how to get them to let go, but I won't post it unless you ask. So if you get nailed by one of these, run in the house and email me and I'll send you the answer. :)
Put the turtle on the ground near where you have set up your work station and spray her off real good with the hose. What you want to do here is grab her beak with the plyers and pull her neck out so you can cut it. Pound for pound these are strong, fighting things.
This is the head. It still has a death grib on the plyers. This is why I say keep animals and children away. About 3 hours after he cut the head off, I tapped it's beak with a stick and it snapped onto it.
Turn the turtle over and run some fresh water throw the neck for a couple minutes.
The first thing you want to get off is the feet. These bad boys will claw you to death, and they keep moving even after you cut for awhile. The quicker they come off, the better it is and the more likely your wife will continue to help you. (Have her don the gloves, hold the shell with a pair of vise-grips and hold the tail.)
Once the leg is off, separate the skin from the shell.
Do this for the other 3 legs as well.
After you do that, carefully cut through where the breastplate connects to the shell and remove it.