This sweet nutty treat is a Christmas essential in Spain. It comes in all sorts of forms but traditionally has a base of honey, sugar, egg whites and is mixed with roasted nuts.
Esssentially there two important distinctions between tradition turrón: Hard or soft.
The hard turrón known as the Alicante variety is a brittle mass of roasted almonds within nougat while the soft or Jijona variety contains almond paste and is smoother, sticker and greaser.
Like so many things in Spain, the treat dates from Arab conquest in the early Middle Ages. The first mention of ‘turun’ has been traced to an 11th-century document named ‘De medicinis et cibis semplicibus’ which was written by an Arab doctor.
Artisan makers in the Alicante region became famous for producing the sweet treat which became a gift offered by patrons to their workers at Christmas time after the Reconquest.
It was a favourite of sweet-toothed monarch King Felipe II and was included in a cook book Conduchos of Christmas,” which was written by Felipe’s chef Francisco Martinez Montino. In fact during his reign towards the end of the 16 century, the king introduced a law restricting the amount of turrón that could be purchased by each household.
Nowadays, turrón is big business. Around 34,000 tons of turrón is produced in Spain each year with almost 90 percent of it being sold at Christmas.
The town of Jijona (Xixona) in the Alicante province is reliant on the turrón industry producing more of it than anywhere else in Spain, using almonds grown in the region and local honey from bees that pollinate wildflowers and almond blossom so abundant.
These days there are hundreds of different varieties of turrón from the chocolate and puffed rice popular with children to the candied fruit, added liquor and more exotic nuts such as pistachios.
You’ll find a broad selection in every supermarket but look out for specialist turrón shops which are a real treat to browse, and try samples as you shop.
La Casa Mira, a famous turrón shop in Madrid. Photo: Fiona Govan
No Spanish christmas table is complete without turrón. It is even the traditional gift left by pooping log Tio de Nadal!
For more in our special Advent season click on the links below:
- #Navidad: How to make a Spanish version of mulled wine (using Galician fire-water!)
- #Navidad: Meet Tió de Nadal, a log that poops presents at Christmas in Spain
- #Navidad: Spain has its own tradition of Christmas caroling
- #Navidad: Why Catalonia celebrates Christmas with someone having a poo
- #Navidad: In Spain the Christmas story begins with Belén