This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
A salt-water tortoise. The subject of more speculative puffery and ingenious advertising to advance prices to the most absurd extremes than any other food-product of America. Every crawling, sliding, sun hasking, mud-wallowing reptile of the turtle or tortoise kind now goes to pot in the name of one particular variety called the diamond-back, and as all are gelatinous, all devoid of any decided or characteristic flavor, and all are when dressed highly seasoned and alike flavored with sherry, to distinguish one variety from another by the taste is impossible; and to pay $4 or $5 for a plateful, or $10 or $20 a quart for the prepared article is sheer infatuation, a fashionable craziness, a confession to being the dupe of cunning advertisers. Terrapin or tortoise is good eating as cooked in Maryland country-houses, as are soft-shell turtles, hawk's-bills, and snapping turtles likewise; they are all gelatinous, tender, and susceptible of being highly flavored by skillful cookery.
There are four principal ways, the white fricassee, brown fricassee, the terrapin pie (like chicken pie), and the baking in the shell to be eaten with salt, pepper, and butter. These terms are used here, because chicken fricassees or stews are very generally understood, and terrapin is the same with the addition of more or less wine, according to circumstances or individual tastes.
The cream stew or white fricassee. The terrapin dropped into boiling water and allowed to remain for about 15 minutes; then handled with a towel, and the outer skin of the legs hastily scraped off before it becomes set fast. The terrapin is opened, gall bladder sought for and removed without breaking, intestines thrown out, eggs saved, and liver; flesh removed from the shells, divided in pieces, simmered in butter and the terrapin liquor collected from the shells while cutting up, little seasoning of mace, salt, pepper; flour stirred in, sherry and boiled cream; the eggs added at last.
The same method with brown sauce and wine instead of cream and wine. In either case the first scalding is only a parboiling, and the blood still runs inside, and the cut-up terrapin must cook about an hour afterwards to make it gelatinous and tender.
Cream of terrapin is made of terrapin broth strengthened with veal or chicken broth and vegetable seasonings, cream and butter, pieces of terrapin and thickening of yolks mixed in without curdling with too much heat, and chopped parsley. Terrapin soup brown is made same as turtle soup.