“Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat”, according to the old saying.
Well, they certainly will if they stuff all the turrón that is piling up in the shops ready for Christmas!!
Everywhere you go now the shelves are piled high with slabs and packets of delicious turrón, the result of the year’s almond harvest.
What is Turrón?
Turrón is an ancient traditional sweet from the Moorish times, and is thought to originally have been made just north of Alicante in a small town called Jijona.
Typically ingredients are local almonds, local honey – which depending on when harvested will influence the taste (as, for example, rosemary will give a slightly resinous flavour than local wild flowers), sugar, egg white, toasted whole or flaked almonds or other nuts. It is usually sold as either a rectangular tablet or in a more decorative round cake form. It is frequently consumed as a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain as well as countries formerly under the Spanish empire, particularly in Latin America, as well as Italy.
There are two traditional basic types of turrón. Soft Jijona or turrón blando, which is so smooth it has the consistency of peanut butter and hard Alicante or turrón duro, which is like a thick almond nougat candy, similar to peanut brittle.
And we’re not talking just a.n. other confectionery item here. Turrón is now a designated – like champagne – with EU law recognising there are just three designated areas which make the traditional product:
- Xixona (PGI) (Valencian Community)
- Torró d’Alacant (PGI) (Valencian Community)
- Torró d’Agramunt (PGI) (Catalonia)
The basic recipe is made from almond paste, sugar, honey & eggs, with the addition of flaked nuts, chocolate, dried fruits, or other ingredients. Two main styles are popular : soft, or ‘blando’ which is akin to what is know as nougat in some countries, and hard, or ‘crujiente’ (these may also be labelled as ‘Jijona’ or ‘Alicante’ respectively).
To complicate matters there are also a series of quality designations:
Suprema – the best quality which for soft blends must contain at least 60 % almonds, the crunchy ‘Crujiente’ with at least 64% of hard almonds, then Extra, Estándar (or standard) and Popular (though it is usually the suprema, extra & crujinete variaties which are seen in shops).
Turrón with chocolate has a further three designations: Extra Fino, Fino and Popular which depend on the ratio of cocoa, cocoa butter and butter used. Other variations may have hard chocolate “flakes” within, fruits, nuts and raisins etc..