Turtle was once a highly sought out delicacy for it’s rich, delicious flavor and nutritious meat. In Philadelphia, turtles were kept in cages, fed cabbage leaves and sold at the High Street Market. Of course, the demand was so great that the number of Green Sea Turtles became dangerously low.
The alternative that people turned to was the Terrapin, a native of the Jersey and Maryland coastline, but the Terrapin also nearly went extinct. Terrapins are an endangered species today.
Mock turtle soups, which used calves’ heads, became quite popular. The next alternative was the Snapping Turtle, which continues to be used today. Snapper hunting is now regulated and the demand for turtle soup is not what it once was.
A popular way to serve the soup was with a splash of Sherry, and a Philadelphia way was to have Pepper Sherry on the table, which is Madeira with habaneros for some heat.