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Mock turtle soup

Mock Turtle Soup

A couple of years ago I was walking through our patch of woods when I came across a large bucket nestled in the hillside. It was filled with silt so I decided to empty it.  No kidding, that bucket was way heavier than it should have been. The reason? A snapping turtle tumbled out from the bottom. It was early spring so it was still hibernating. My first thought was turtle soup. I pushed it back into the bucket and had it hauled up the hill. Long story short, no soup was made from that irritable creature. We let it go and it headed down the hill toward the river.

That brings me to the single subject of today’s column: mock turtle soup. This will satisfy the many requests. Like goetta, mock turtle soup is a cherished heirloom recipe here. The former Cricket restaurant served a version, and St. Rita’s school serves it at their festival every year. Ron’s Roost on the west side has it on their menu, also.

And there’s a good recipe for mock turtle soup in Cheri Brinkman’s Cincinnati and Soup.
Cheri can be reached at Cincinnatiandsoup@yahoo.com.

The original real turtle soup was made from green sea turtles. They’re an endangered species and most live in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Mock turtle soup originated in England in the mid 1800’s. It later became popular in Germany.  Some original mock turtle soups were made from calf’s brains. OK, so I’m glad that ground beef is the meat of choice now.

If you don’t want to make it, Worthmore’s canned mock turtle soup is a good bet. I spoke with Phil Haock, whose granddad started the business in the 20’s. Phil said they sell 100’s of cases a week from their Cincinnati facility. Some goes to former tri-staters who can’t go without their Worthmore. If you want to make your own, here are 2 reader favorites .

I’ve not made the soup yet but plan to do so soon and will let you know which recipe I like  best.

Here’s some more information that I found on the web and after that are the recipes:

History and Urban Legends

“Mock Turtle soup originated in England in the mid-18th century. It later became a traditional meal in the Oldenburg and Ammerland regions of Germany where it was referred to as Mockturtlesuppe . The Mock Turtle was mentioned in the story “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Alas, the Mock Turtle suffered its demise just as the baby Naugas perished at the hands of the Nauga hunters in search of their skins to make Naugahyde furniture that became popular in the 1960s and 70s. They are now extinct.

I never had the opportunity or pleasure to partake of the turtle soup that was originally made from the meat of the green sea turtle  that is now a protected species. My first experience with turtle meat came when I was eight years old. I was at my favorite fishing hole dreaming of that lunker catfish that lurked in the depths of a secluded pond when I was jolted into reality by something dragging my rod and reel into the water. Gathering my senses and working meticulously I landed something altogether different than I expected; a 10 pound Snapping Turtle.

Mock Turtle soup in slow cooker







Onion (finely chopped)






Olive Oil



Chuck Roast (or other meat)



Garlic (minced)








Bay Leaf









Chicken Stock



Tomatoes (skinned and diced)

Salt/Pepper to taste


Lemon (minced rind and all)


Hard Boiled Eggs (diced)


  1. Heat butter and oil in large skillet
  2. Add meat and brown slightly
  3. Transfer meat to Crockpot and add spices and herbs
  4. Add flour and stir to coat meat and vegetables
  5. Add water and stock, turn Crockpot to low
  6. Add all remaining ingredients except eggs
  7. Allow soup to simmer for 6 to 8 hours
  8. When dish is ready shred the beef if necessary
  9. Add hard boiled egg and serve

Makes 4 to 6 servings


This lemony and savory soup makes an excellent starter to a meal or can be a meal in itself. Its unique blend of flavors and textures plays with the pallet to produce a symphony of pleasure. It brings back memories of my childhood with every bite. Be adventurous and give it a try. You may produce new memories of your own


From Rita’s readers:

Betty Miller in Milford, clipped from this paper in 1977. It may not be from the former Cricket restaurant, but Betty says this soup is “one of the best, if not the best.”

Granddad Robert J. Niehoff’s Mock Turtle Soup

20 gingersnaps, preferably Nabisco

2 cups water

2 pounds ground beef

1 medium onion, diced

1 (14 ounce) bottle ketchup

1/2 cup Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 lemon, seeded and sliced thin

4 cups water, more or less

3 hard-cooked eggs, crumbled


Soak gingersnaps in 2 cups water and set aside. Brown beef in large heavy pot. Drain fat. Mash beef with potato masher while cooking for a fine texture. Stir in onions. Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon. Add 4 cups water, more or less, for thick or thin soup.

Simmer mixture 1 hour. Add soaked gingersnaps, raising heat and stirring constantly 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in crumbled eggs. Serve hot with dash of sherry. Makes 6 servings.Rita


John T’s mock turtle soup

John is a good cook, so I’m confident this is a great recipe, as well.

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

3 qts. HOT water

20 to 30 ginger snaps

1 large onion

1 medium carrot

1 lemon

2 oz. Worcestershire sauce

1 small bottle catsup (14 oz)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4 hard-boiled eggs (finely chopped)

2 tbls sherry wine (or vinegar)

Small bag of pickling spice

Place the meat and ginger snaps in the hot water and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes.  Grind or grate the onion and the carrot and add to mixture.  Slice the lemon paper thin and add to mixture.  Add catsup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Suspend bag of pickling spice into mixture.  Cook over a low heat for 2 to 3 hours.  Stir frequently.  Add finely chopped eggs about 1/2 hour before finish.  Add wine (or vinegar).  Cool quickly by placing in sink of cold water.  When cool, place in refrigerator until ready for use.  Mixture will keep for a week or more if refrigerated.  Can also be frozen for later use.   Enjoy!!!

Mock Turtle Soup using browned flour

Flour is usually browned in a cast iron skillet or in the oven. Be careful so it doesn’t burn!

1 lb. ground beef

1 lg. onion, chopped

1 (14 oz.) bottle catsup

3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 c. browned flour mixed in

3/4 c. cold water

3 beef bouillon cubes

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

1 tbsp. brown sugar

10 each – cloves and allspice

1 tbsp. vinegar

1 lg. bay leaves

1/2 c. sherry

2 hard cooked eggs

Mix together all except sherry and eggs. Cook until meat is done. Add sherry. Garnish with paper thin slices of egg on each bowl.

Now not to be outdone, here’s another observation from Victoria, a former Cincinnatian who  has fond memories of her great grandma’s turtle soup made with flour, not gingersnaps. This was in the “Comments” section of the site. I’ve included Victoria’s comments along with my answer.

Hi Rita,
I’m a Cincinnatian born and raised, although I live in Staten Island, New York these days. I’m home visiting, and a friend gave me the column you recently published on Mock Turtle Soup (Jan 21/Suburban Life).
I was shocked to see that you did not include a recipe for Mock Turtle Soup done with browned flour, the original old German way! Since I’m traveling, I don’t have my recipe file with me, but if I did, the recipe I’d offer does NOT include ginger snaps! My German great grandmother, Maria Geiser Armleder would have recognized that ingredient from her Sauerbraten recipe, but not from the recipe for Mock Turtle Soup. She and her husband, Johann Armleder (founders of what is now the Washington Platform Saloon in downtown Cincy) used a recipe that is similar to the one published in the original Joy of Cooking, which calls for: soup bones (preferably veal), pickling spices, worcestershire, ground veal sautéed with garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and browned flour. That ingredient gives the soup its distinct nut-like flavor. The recipe is on page 212 in the old Joy of C., and the only way in which my family recipe differs from it is that my mother added a bottle of ketchup, rather than the tomato paste the authors of the Joy suggest.
BTW, my great grandmother did use a calve’s head, while my mother (thankfully) used plain ground beef . The recipe in the Joy of Cooking suggests adding calve’s brain to the veal, which I did once as an experiment. It was really good, but hard to get past the fact of the calves’ brain, so I have settled happily for the veal.
I do think the browned flour is important, and I reserve my ginger snaps for Sauerbraten, another great old German recipe.

Submitted on 2015/01/26 at 1:13 pm | In reply to victoria hallerman.

Hi, Victoria,
I know what you’re talking about with the browned flour. My German mother-in-law used browned flour for some of her recipes.

I didn’t have room for that particular recipe in my column, and actually had to look one up, but am including one today on the site, along with your note. I love the history that you share about your great grandma and her turtle soup. So we now have another “tried & true” recipe for Mock Turtle Soup in our Hall of Fame.

Again, thanks for sharing.

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