Turrón is a very old, traditional sweet of Moorish (Arabic) origin. Turrón has been a popular sweet for centuries, even outside Spain’s borders. It is said that the Moors invented turrón over 500 year ago in Jijona, a small town about 30 miles or so north of Alicante. Jijona’s economy is focused on the production of turrón and there is even a museum of turrón that chronicles the process and history of the sweet. In addition, it is located within the factory that makes both “El Lobo” and “1880” brands of turrón. If you are lucky enough to visit the museum from mid-June to mid-December, you can watch the turrón production from a balcony high above the factory floor. (For more information on the museum, please see the end of the article.)
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.
The wild flowers that bloom in the mountainsides all around the town of Jijona are food for the bees that produce the honey, which is such an important ingredient of turrón. The honey, together with the almonds from nearby orchards forms delicious turrón in the hands of artisan candy makers, called turroneros. In 1939 a Denomination of Origin for turrón from Jijona was created and in 1991 the rules of the denomination were revised.
Alicante and Jijona Turrón
Alicante or turrón duro is made by roasting, then chopping the almonds and mixing with honey. The mixture is then simmered over heat and stirred constantly with large wooden spoons. Egg white is added to bind the mixture and it is cooled. Once cooled, it is cut into pieces that resemble bricks, wrapped in paper-thin wafer, sealed in plastic and packed. Jijona or turrón blando takes more work. Once the turrón duro is cooled, the blocks are ground up with almond oil to form a sticky paste. Then, it is reheated and beaten for hours until it forms a soft, even mix. Egg white is then added as a binding agent and cooled in square metal containers to be cut into thick slices and packed in plastic.
Now the you know a bit about the two traditional types of turrón, it’s time to learn that the world of turrón is much larger than just Alicante and Jijona turrón! There are so many different flavors of turrón, it is hard to keep up. For example, new varieties include yema or egg yolk, praline, chocolate and even kiwi!
Qualities of Turrón
There are several different qualities of turrón. Rules strictly control whether a turrón may be labeled with “Suprema” or “Extra.” The best quality is “Suprema” and to wear that label, the soft turron must contain at least 60% almonds and the hard, 64% almonds. After that, there is “Extra,” “Estándar” (standard) and “Popular.” Most factories only produce turrón “Suprema” or “Extra.” The typical Spanish housewife will be looking for those words on the package label when she goes to the supermarket to buy for her Christmas dinner. Chocolate turrón deserves a little more description, not only because it is delicious and one of our favorites, but because it too has qualities including “Extrafino,” “Fino” and “Popular,” depending on the percent of cocoa and milk it contains. It is made of from a base of cocoa butter, extracted from the cocoa beans. Some of the chocolate turrón has dried fruits and nuts mixed in the center.
Your local gourmet food store probably stocks turrón at Christmas, but if they don't, visit an internet retailer. Spanish Food FAQ: Where can I buy Spanish food? and attached Readers Answer document contains a list of web sites that specialize in selling Spanish food.
The Museum of Turron
When you vacation in Spain, add the Museum of Turrón or Museo del Turrón to the "must see" list. (Only the Spanish version of the site is currently available.)
What's in the Museo de Turron?