Snail Snake Turtle and Frog

Here's how to prepare these critters that are neither bird, mammal, nor fish.

snail: There's a lot to know about collecting and eating snails. Some are not good to eat. Some need special treatment. There are land and marine snails too, and each are

Different Types Edible Snails

different. California is good snail hunting country. Here's the necessary info (thanks to the Division of Agricultural Sciences, U. of California) for preparing the edible European brown snail or brown garden snail (Helis aspersa), which is called "escargot" in French but is the same as the common garden snail considered a pest in the gardens and yards of California. Also known in France as the petit gris or vineyard snail, it was probably first brought to the North American continent around 1850. Another edible snail found in some parts of California is the white Spanish or "milk" snail (Otala lactea), which is preferred by many people of southern European stock. (Ask an Italian!)

Snails have been used as food throughout the world for centuries. Edible types can be cultivated in cages placed in dooryards, basements, and even in dwellings. Snails are close relatives of the abalone, a sea snail that's also a table favorite. But the U.S. escargot is generally thought of as a garden nuisance rather than as a free, low-calorie meat crop (about 90 calories per 100 grams [3.5 oz.] of snail meat) that's also rich in protein and minerals. It would be much better to harvest and use snails for food than to poison them. Harvesting. The brown garden snail (escargot) is about 1 to IV2 inches in diameter and V2 inch wide when mature. Mature snails are the best for cooking—there is more and tastier meat, and the shells are easier to get off. Immature snail shells are thin and hard to work with. NOTE: Don't collect snails in areas where poisons have been used for snail control. Instead, water down the area thoroughly and wait at least 6 weeks before collecting snails.

Snail hunting is best about 2 hours after dark because snails are night creatures. Take only moving snails: that's a sign of good health. Light watering in the late afternoon before your hunt helps bring them out of hiding. You may be able to harvest them more easily during dry weather, when they seal themselves to any surface available; in citrus groves, for example, tree trunks are often covered with hundreds of snails.

Purge. Snails collected for eating must be purged of any off-flavor or toxic materials from previously eaten food. Put about V2 inch of damp cornmeal in the bottom of a container such as a plastic wastebasket, metal pan, or crock. Put snails in the container and cover with a ventilated top; a wire refrigerator shelf, hardware cloth, cheesecloth, or nylon netting provides plenty of air and let you observe the activity of the snails. The cover should be weighted with bricks or tied securely so the snails do not escape. Place the container in a cool, shady area and let snails purge themselves (by eating the cornmeal) for at least 72 hours. Snails can be kept in containers for a long time if the cornmeal is replaced every other day to prevent it from molding and souring. The snails will feed and then crawl up the side of the container to rest; use only active snails. Throw away without eating those that remain inactive on the bottom. After 72 hours the snails can be removed from the container and washed thoroughly with cold running water to remove the cornmeal from their shells. They are now ready for blanching, another essential procedure.

Blanch. Plunge the live snails into boiling water and simmer about 15 minutes, as is done in preparing live shrimp, lobster, crab, or crawfish. (A bay leaf in the cooking water will give this operation a pleasant aroma.) The water will foam as the snails cook, so heat should be controlled to prevent the kettle from boiling over. After blanching, turn snails into a colander to drain. Then, with a toothpick, nut pick, or pointed knife, pull the snail meat from the shell. Save some shells for later use.

Remove Gall. Remove and discard the dark-colored gall, about V4 inch long, which is found on the tail end, where the snail is attached to the shell. Wash snail meat several times under cold running water.

Frozen Snails. After purging and blanching snails, the meat may be packaged and frozen for later use or prepared according to your favorite recipe.

Preparing the Shells. Boil the empty shells for 30 minutes in water to which about % t. baking soda per pint of water has been added. Drain the shells, wash them thoroughly in cold running water, and then dry them. Use them to serve snails in recipes calling for cleaned shells. NOTE: Avoid or minimize salt and vinegar in snail recipes, because they make snail meat tough. Snail Recipes

<i> SNAILS IN TOMATO SAUCE Saute I chopped medium onion, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, and A2 c. chopped bell pepper in 2 T. oil. Add I lb. canned tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until bell pepper is tender and flavors are blended. Add I pt cleaned and blanched snails and simmer 10 minutes. Serve over hot toast wedges, hot cooked rice, or hot noodles.

BAKED SNAILS Simmer cleaned, blanched snail meat for 10 minutes in water seasoned as desired with onion, garlic, allspice, bay leaf, etc. Toss cooked snail meat in melted butter or margarine and roll in bread or cracker crumbs seasoned with salt pepper, and garlic powder. Place in greased shallow pan and bake in a hot oven (450°F) until brown. Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving.

<&> STUFFED SNAIL SHELLS Simmer cleaned, blanched snail meat in salted water until tender. Chop snail meat mix with minced garlic, and saute in olive oil or margarine about

5 minutes. Stuff cleaned shells with the chopped, seasoned meat Seal shell opening with garlic butter. Place under broiler for a few minutes until butter bubbles. Serve immediately.

FRIED SNAILS Simmer cleaned, blanched snail meat for 10 minutes in water seasoned as desired with salt bay leaf parsley, thyme, allspice, etc. Roll cooked snail meat in fine cracker or bread crumbs seasoned with salt pepper, and garlic powder. Fry in oil until browned, as you would fried oysters. Sprinkle with lemon juice to serve. These may be served as an entree or, pierced with toothpicks, as hors d'oeuvres.

SNAILS IN WINE SAUCE Combine in a casserole dish 18 cleaned and blanched snails, 2 diced slices of bacon, 9 small boiling onions or 'A c. chopped onion, I crushed clove garlic, I T. minced parsley, a pinch thyme, A41. pepper, and I c. red wine or grape juice. Cover and bake I hour in a slow oven (275°F).Just before serving thicken with a butter and flour mixture and serve over crisp toast wedges or croutons. (Serves only 3 people.)

W> SNAILS IN GARLIC BUTTER Start by creaming together until thoroughly blended I crushed large clove garlic, A2 c. butter or margarine, 3 T. finely chopped parsley, 2 t finely minced green onions with tops, A41 salt and As t. pepper. snake/eel: These instructions are for snake, but you can prepare eel the same way. Kill the snake by cutting off its head. If it's a poisonous snake, be careful not to touch the fangs, since they contain poison that can enter the bloodstream through a cut or scratch in your skin. There is no poison in the meat, which is typically very white and tender. To skin the snake, nail it down or have someone hold it by the front end with a pair of pliers. Peel off the skin as you would peel a banana. Cut open the body and take out the innards. Cut the skinned meat into 2-5-inch portions. You can split them down the backbone to make them lie flat.

<i> FRIED SNAKE Dip pieces into beaten egg. Roll in seasoned flour (garlic, salt pepper) or cracker crumbs. Pan-fry or deep-fat-fry the snake. Or wrap to keep from drying out and bake.

turtle: Freshwater snapping turtles are good eating but dangerous to catch. Grip the shell behind the head, so you can't get bitten. Or get it biting on a stick and then cut off its head with an ax. Let it hang head downward after beheading until bled out. Cut off all the claws. Then skin the hide down the legs to the feet, which you cut off at the joint. Small turtles can be cooked in the shell until the meat cooks free. Another school of turtle cuisine prefers to proceed by dropping the live turtle into a pan of boiling water, cooking it for about 10 minutes, and then moving it to ice-cold water for 10 more minutes. After this treatment, it will be possible to rub the skin from head, tail, and legs.

Whether you skin or boil your turtle, the next step is the same: you cut through the shell part connecting top and bottom shells. You can use a sharp knife if you have a snapper, but you'll need a saw or ax for a tougher-shelled turtle. Then pry off the bottom shell. Once the shell is off, you can easily remove the innards. After you get the turtle shelled and cleaned, cook it whole, cut it into quarters, or cut it up as you would chicken (depending on its size and the size of your cooking pans).

There's a good section on the diamondback terrapin in Gene Logsdon's Getting Food from Water.

<i> DORIS'S TURTLE Soak turtle meat 8 hours in cold salt water (important). Flour it in a mixture of unbleached white flour, salt and pepper; brown in a frying pan; and bake 4 hours in a slow oven. Or, after browning, add 2 sliced onions and enough water to cover, and simmer until tender. Make gravy with pan juices and serve with mashed potatoes. For turtle soup, Doris does the same as above and then cools the meat and removes the bones. She chunks the meat and cooks it together with small whole new potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, celery, a bay leaf a little curry powder, lima beans, and fresh snap beans. She adds additional seasoning to taste and sometimes tomatoes too.

frog: The front and hind legs of bullfrogs, leopard frogs, and green marsh frogs are all edible; the rest is discarded. In Oregon the bullfrog is classified as a game fish, and there's a specific bag limit of so many per day. To prepare frog's legs, cut off the legs, remove the feet, and peel off the skin.

<i> GOURMET FRIED FROG'S LEGS Season the legs with salt pepper, and lemon juice. Dip legs into beaten egg and then into crumbs of flour. They will fry very quickly—about 3 minutes in deep fat (a wire frying basket preserves their crust). If you are pan-frying them, turn the heat low and cook 5 to 10 minutes, turning as needed, until the meat separates easily from the bones. You may substitute frog's legs in any gourmet or regular chicken or rabbit recipe.

Continue reading here: Freezing

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