My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? – Bob Hope
A Little History #
Turrón is a very old, traditional sweet of Moorish (Arabic) origin. A popular sweet for centuries, even outside Spain's borderBys, most people don't realize that the Moors invented this delicacy over 500 years ago in Jijona, a small town about 30 miles or so north of Alicante. Most of the industrial production is still there and in Alicante. From mid-June to mid-December, you can visit the museum in Jijona and watch the production from the second floor overlook.
Why Is Turrón Special? #
With winter holidays here, you see them in every supermarket – the stacks and stacks of turrónes. Originally, there were only two - turrónde Jijona and turrón de Alicante, more familiarly called el duro (the hard) and el blando (the soft). The Arabs used local produce - almonds and honey - in almost all of their deserts. To this day, sweets typical for Mediterranean countries are based on these two ingredients.
Though these two are the most classic varieties, innovative turrón makers created ever more choices, using marzipan, candied fruit and coconut, for example. In the middle of the 20th Century, turrón de yema was invented – a specialty made from egg yolk. It's delicious (if it's fresh!)
Most turrónes on the market are industrially-produced. The Spanish mainland province of Alicante is the centre of production here in Spain but, to be frank, there is a big difference in taste between those and the artisanal ones. The recipes for those have always been a well-kept secret and each turrón maker has his own.
This they have in common: fresh, high-quality, local ingredients only. And they would never sell a turrón cut up in bite-sized pieces which would make it lose it's juiciness. So, if you want the best, buy from local confectioners or....why not make your own?
Many believe this very Spanish Christmastime treat is difficult to make. It’s really not, just takes quite a bit of time is all, says our writer Stephanie Horsman. This is her recipe for turrón de Jijona.
3 ½ cups (500g) whole blanched local almonds
¼ (70g) local organic honey
¾ to 1 cup (100g) powdered sugar (either store bought or organic sugar ground at home
- Toast the almonds in the oven at 175° until they reach a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven.
- As you allow the almonds to cool, grind the sugar into a powdered sugar consistency in a blender or coffee grinder. (Or use store bought powdered sugar.) I like to grind my own because I can use the type of sugar that I prefer. (unrefined organic)
- Grind the cooled almonds in a food processor. If you have a high-powered food processor, this process should be relatively simple and shouldn't take too long. If your food processor isn't as potent, this recipe may be a lot of work for it and could end up breaking it. I'm not telling you this to scare you from proceeding but do want to warn you. If you are making nut butters already with your food processor without issues, you should be fine!
- As the almonds turn into more of an almond butter, add in the powdered sugar and honey. Continue to process the mixture until you reach a pretty thin paste consistency. You want the almonds to release their oils!
- Line a loaf pan with parchment or wax paper for easier removal later on. You can cover it with another layer of paper, add a piece of cardboard over top of it, and weight it down with a bottle of olive oil, and then let it rest for 24-48 hours.
- After 24-48 hours, I checked on the turrón, and noticed that with my setup, the turrón probably couldn't release any excess oils very easily. The cardboard had absorbed some of the oils, but I decided to remove the top layer of paper and cardboard and cover it with a cotton cloth instead. I then covered the cloth with some absorbent paper towels and let the turrón rest another couple of days. If you have more time to let the turrón rest, I don't think you need to switch to the cloth/paper towel method. It should firm up over the next week or two as the mixture releases its oils and the liquid component evaporates. If you are in a hurry, or impatient like I was, though, the cloth method does speed up the process.
- Remove the cloth and check on the consistency of the turrón. It should get progressively more solid as it rests and releases more of its oils. When it is firm enough to hold its shape, you can remove the turrón from the pan with the cloth or cardboard, and move it to an airtight container for storage, or serve immediately. (Mine started to get a bit drier on the top where the cloth was, and a very thin layer began to stick to the cloth. I flipped the turrónover for serving and storage, and that gave it a much nicer appearance and allowed the turrón to mellow out and have the right consistency throughout.
Too Much Work for You? #
If it all seems too much of a hustle for you, there is a place where you can go to get delicious homemade turron: the cloisters! It has always been a tradition for the nuns to make a bit of extra money during the Christmas season by selling their own homemade treats. One of the cloisters you can go to is the Santa Clara one in Calle Can Fonollar 2, in Palma.
#turrondealicante #turrondejijona #turronduro #turronblando #turrondeyema #turron
By Ulla Rahn-Huber
11 December, 2023