Turrón the Spanish Christmas Sweet
The ‘turrón’ (pronounced like ‘tu’- ‘ron’) is the favourite Spanish Christmas sweet. It is like a nougat stick. Alicante is known as the City of Turrón. To be exact, there are 15 of the 16 factories of Turrón in the famous village of Jijona. They produce for all of Spain and export to Japan, the USA, Argentina, Venezuela, etc. In fact, Spain is the largest turrón exporter in the world.
Its mains ingredients are almonds and honey, and they can be soft or hard, but there are many variants such as:
- Toasted yolk turrón
- Truffle turrón
- Chocolate turrón, with different combinations: White chocolate, dark chocolate, with nuts or almonds, with cherries, with puffed rice…
- Coconut turrón
Every year there are more innovative combinations like turrones made out of a kind of strawberry yoghurt, or with bits of dehydrated fruits, or marzipan with nuts…and there are also the alternative turrones adapted for diabetics or celiacs. Keep in mind that turrones with almonds as the main ingredient may help to reduce cholesterol.
And every year, someone tries to make the largest turrón in the world to achieve a new Guinness Record.
History & Legend
There are many stories of how this sweet was born. What we do know is that it was already being consumed in the 15th century.
It is assumed that it already existed in Ancient Greece as a pastry made mainly out of almonds and honey, which was eaten by Greek athletes as an energetic product to participate in the Olympic Games. Apparently, the Arabs were the ones who introduced this sweet in Spain. It is said that they organized a contest to find a nutritive food that could be easily stored, maintained in good conditions for a long period of time, and which could be easily transported by their army without starting to spoil.
It seems that the sugar was an ingredient added later on, in the 18th century, coinciding with the massive planting of sugar cane in America and the extension of free trade between their territories and numerous Spanish harbours, Alicante’s included.
In Jijona they have a legend which tells how the turrón originated:
“At that time, the King married a Scandinavian princess, so she had to come to this land, leaving her cold home behind. The princess was very sad at not being able to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of her country full of eternal snow. The king, desperate to see his new queen like this new land, had the idea of planting thousands of almond trees in all their lands surrounding the castle. Thus, when the almond trees flourished, the landscape would be full of white shades, so it would look like it had snowed, and thus the princess regained her happiness. From that moment, Jijona’s dwellers learnt how to harvest the fruits of the almond trees and produce the first samples of turrón.”
When times were hard, between the 19th and the 20th centuries, many families from Jijona had to migrate to larger cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Málaga…) to try to sell their products. If the business was successful, they would open a shop, and most of them would also sell ice-creams. They tried to sell everything they had made so they could return to their home towns with their earnings, to see them through the rest of the year.