The turtle-flesh must be then cut up into small pieces about two inches square, and boiled for about twelve hours in some stock prepared as follows—and it is in the preparation of this stock that the real secret of making good turtle soup lies.
Now, turtle soup requires far stronger stock than is required for ordinary soup, and it should be borne in mind that it is always considered a great luxury, and when purchased ready-made the usual price is a guinea a quart. I have mentioned this, as I consider in the present day an apology is due for recommending the buying of gravy-beef for making soups for small families where economy is of the slightest moment. It is, as a rule, quite unnecessary.
But to proceed—we consider real turtle rather an exception to general rules :—
Take a pound and a half of gravy-beef, an equal quantity of knuckle of veal, and one slice of lean raw ham, and place them in a large saucepan, which we will suppose to be perfectly clean, lid as well. Place in also the following:—One head of celery, two onions—one of which has half a dozen cloves stuck in it—a small turnip and carrot, about as much parsley as would fill a tea-cup, two tea-spoonfuls of dried marjoram, two tea-spoonfuls of dried basil, half a tea-spoonful of lemon-thyme, and rather less than half a tea-spoonful of a herb called pennyroyal. All these herbs can be obtained at Covent-Garden Market in sixpenny and shilling bottles, the latter herb being sold by the bunch. Add a small tea-spoonful of salt and a little cayenne pepper, bearing in mind that these last commodities vary considerably in strength, and that it is always easy to add more, but impossible to take back. Fill the saucepan, which ought to be a gallon one, nearly full with cold water. Put it on the fire to simmer gently for at least twelve hours, occasionally skimming off any scum that may have risen. Unless the above has been placed on the fire early in the morning, it will be necessary to continue the operation of extracting the flavour and goodness from the meat, herbs, etc, the following day, in which case recollect that the whole must be turned out into a large basin at night, and covered over with a cloth. Inexperienced cooks would do well to bear in mind the following maxim :—If soup be left in the saucepan all night, it will be utterly spoilt.
When the above has simmered long enough, and has been reduced by this means to about two quarts, it must be carefully strained into a basin, and all the fat removed in the usual way. We would then recommend as follows, premising that it is not absolutely necessary, though a great improvement, mentioning this as in some parts of the country the ingredient could not be obtained.
Get, if possible, a couple of pounds of conger-eel, and boil it in the stock for an hour or more ; this had better be done where conger-eel is readily obtained, and cheap. Where, however, it is not, get for the previous day's lunch, or dinner, a pound or a pound and a half of the ordinary fresh eels ; cut them into small pieces about two inches long, and let them boil gently in the stock till they are quite tender. Take them out with a strainer, throw them into a saucepan of boiling water for a minute, and then place them in a dish with enough boiling water to cover them, throwing in a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley. It is an exceedingly nice dish, often served at fish dinners, and called eel souchet. Brown bread and butter should be handed with it. By this means the soup gets a fish stock added to it, and there is no waste, as the fish is eaten. Of course the ordinary method of cooking the fish is to boil it in water. When this is done it will be found that the water in which the fish is boiled, when it is cold, becomes quite a jelly. Now all this glutinous substance helps the soup. The soup must be again carefully strained, and, if it is necessary, cleared with a couple of whites of eggs, and then run through a jelly-bag a few times in front of the fire. The soup must then be placed in an enamelled saucepan, and the turtle-flesh added to it and boiled till it is as tender as thoroughly-cooked calf's head; during this process of boiling, the soup will probably reduce itself to the desired quantity— viz., about three pints ; to this must be then added a claret-glassful of madeira, which can now be obtained really good at forty shillings a dozen from any respectable wine-merchant. If, however, it is not thought necessary to have madeira bought on purpose —and it is a somewhat rare wine in the present day —a similar quantity of good golden sherry will do. The soup is now done, and only requires a few drops of lemon-juice added to it after it is put in the tureen.
One of the greatest mistakes in the use of wine for cooking is to think that any wine will do. I have known cases where people have ordered a few bottles of what they chose to call cooking sherry from the grocers, and filthy stuff it has been—enough to spoil anything. If you think turtle soup does not deserve a glass of good wine, my advice is, do not make any. It is no use adding a glass of some horrible concoction called sherry or madeira, and then tasting the soup and saying, " Ah ! it is not a bit like what we had at Francatelli's." Of course it is not, and you have only yourselves to blame. The same thing applies to real mock-turtle. " What does he mean by real mock-turtle?" I can imagine you saying. But we live and learn. This is exactly the question I asked a waiter many years ago. We were discussing the important subject of what I should have for dinner.
"Soup, sir? yes, sir; very nice mock-turtle sir— real mock-turtle, sir."
This led to the disclosure—it was in the country— that it was made from calf's head, not pig's head.
Now, more than three-parts of the mock-turtle soup sold in London—I do not mean in the better-class hotels or restaurants—is made from pig's head, and very nice it is too. Were it really made from calf's head, it could not possibly be sold for the money. At some future period, when speaking on the all-important subject of " economy " in cooking, I will give you the recipe. Half a pig's head can be bought for nine-pence; nine persons out of ten would not tell the difference between soup made from it and soup made from call's head. As the pieman said to Sam Weller, u It's the seasoning as does it."
In the above directions, I have only mentioned what I consider absolutely essential. "When so many things are mentioned in recipes, people are apt to despair of trying them. However, there are several little things that might be added to the above stock during the period of making cooking with advantage : some chicken-bones, bearing in mind that they must have no white sauce in connection with them, or the soup will never be clear. A mushroom would be another little improvement; any odd scraps of meat, especially roast meat, may be added. The only difference between clear turtle and thick is that the latter has some brown thickening added to it. But it is, in my opinion, a great mistake to begin dinner with a thick soup, which is a capital thing to lunch off in cold weather, but it is apt to spoil the very best sauce—viz., appetite. The best recipe I know of for this sauce is exercise. Of course it is quite possible to have too much of a good thing, and this was the opinion of a certain gentleman, who once went out to dinner, as follows :—
He was a short, middle-aged gentleman, with a waistcoat that conveyed the idea of having swallowed a water-melon. He was not, as may be imagined, fond of exercise as a rule, and consequently took a cab to go out to dinner. Unfortunately, the cab was old and rotten, and the bottom gave way and came clean out, seat and all. The unlucky man inside had consequently to trot the whole way through the mud. As the cabman, quite unconscious of what had happened, drove on at a brisk pace, the middle-aged gentleman fruitlessly endeavouring to attract his attention all the time. On arriving at his destination, his feelings, as well as his legs, can be better imagined than described.
Cooking is a high art. There was some great foreign Minister, I forget who, who owed his great success as a diplomatist to his cook.
Suppose, for instance, some young man required a little assistance from his father. Who, in his senses, would broach the subject half an hour before dinner ? No, send home a woodcock, and tell the cook to take great pains with it, and send it up unexpectedly. Tell the butler to get up a particular bottle, such as '34 port, or '48 Chateau Margaux, or a bottle of very old East India madeira. Wait till the old gentleman is about half-way through his bottle, and then approach him with respectful and affectionate confidence.
I have got another recipe for an old aunt, worth thousands. It is, as I say, worth thousands—i.e., if the aunt be old, rich, and capable of making a will. Yes, I will tell, and in so doing probably make hundreds of fortunes for others, some of whom may perhaps some day recollect me. The recipe is as follows :—Make the tipsy-cake with brandy.