The Christmas festive season in Spain (and countries formerly under the Spanish Empire) or “las Navidades”, as they say, is marked in the typical celebrations of the Christian tradition.
Of course, like in any other country, there are regional specialties, that give the holiday its unique touch. Such a special festive thing in Spain is the “turron”.
It is a Christmas confection resembling the French nougat, made of egg whites, honey and almonds.
Originally named “terro” or “torro,” the origins of the turron can be traced back to the 11th century.
The origin of the word turron, though not absolutely certain, is credited to be Latin, deriving from the verb torrere (to toast). Though the turron might have derived from a Muslim recipe prevalent in parts of Islamic Spain known as turun.
Nowadays there are countless varieties, depending on the nuts and dried fruits etc., that constitute it.
It is a Christmas culinary staple and the first recorded recipe for turron is found in a 16th century cookbook, “Manual de mujeres” or “Women’s Handbook” – a collection of recipes for cosmetics and various food dishes. The recipe for turron is fairly simple, as all great things tend to be – some honey and egg whites are cooked and when the honey caramelizes, toasted nuts of choice are to be added. Then it is cooled down and cut into pieces with rectangular shape.
However, these are just general directions, as the turron have proved to be a very versatile dessert. If we are to classify it though, we would say, that there are generally two main types of turron in Spain – hard and soft. Hard turron is typical for Alicante area and the soft is characteristic to the area of Jijona (known as Xixona in English).
The hard turron of Alicante is with prevalent amount of whole almonds, whereas the soft variety of Jijona is made of almond paste and added oil, which makes the final mass chewy and sticky. Turrón de Jijona is usually the preferred one, as the first reference to the word in English print confirms, in a 1918 issue of the Chambers’s journal: “..the finest turron from Jijona”.
Both the Alicante and the Jijona turron have Protected Geographical Status under EU law.
There are varieties of turron present in the Christmas desserts’ tradition of other countries of the Christian Catholic family as well, like Italy, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Peru; but it is Spain where the Holiday Season is not complete without sharing this delicacy with friends and family.