Despite the wide variety of tempting candies and cakes that appear in Spanish pastry shops at Christmas time, there is always an ample section dedicated to the most appreciated and traditional sweet of the holiday season: turrón. Although various regions in Spain dispute its time and place of origin, most specialists agree that Alicante was the first to inherit this nougat pastry tradition from the Arabs, possibly as early as the 16th century.
The classic versions of turrón, the hard version from Alicante and the soft from Jijona, are made of the same ingredients today as they were centuries ago: almonds, dried fruit, rosemary or orange blossom honey, and sugar. In Jijona, the turrón must be made of at least 52% almonds, 46% in Alicante, in addition to the minimum of 10% of pure honey.
Until this year, the percentage of almonds determined the quality of the turrón. ¨Supreme¨ (gold seal) had to be made of at least 60% almonds, and ¨Extra¨ (silver seal) had to have around 50%. However, the Regulating Council decided to eliminate the ¨Extra¨ class and have all protected turrón be of ¨Supreme¨ quality, which raised the almond quantity to 64%.
Alll of the turrón made in Jijona and Alicante must be approved by the IGP Regulating Council (Indicaciones Geográficas Protegidas) of the two provinces.
The IGP won a large judicial battle with the European Commission against French companies who used the Jijona name on their products, establishing that the name indicated quality protections that only exist in the two Spanish regions, both because of their special microclimate and the fact that the sweets are made with ingredients that can only found there.
Alicante and Jijona currently remain the world capitols of turrón, a product that has long since crossed the national borders to become a pastry enjoyed in many parts of the world. Approximately 1,500 tons are exported from Spain each year. A total of 11,000 tons (60% of national production) are produced in Jijona and Alicante alone, of which 15% is exported.
The economic crisis in Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela has lowered turrón imports from those countries, but the Regulating Council is confident that sales will increase in other American countries where turrón has been heavily promoted over the last few years: USA (Florida, California, and New York), Puerto Rico, Mexico, The Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Panama.
Recently, number of new ingredients have been used in the production of turrón, including rice, hazlenut, pistachios, liquor, and cheese. The most common traditional varieties are:
In Alicante: Very hard, with whole almonds and hazlnuts.
In Jijona (Alicante): Granulated, maroon, greasy because of the release of oil from the almonds.
In Cádiz: Soft, full dough of fruit, more commonly known as ¨Bread of Cádiz¨ (Pan de Cádiz)
Egg Yolk Turrón: Principal ingredient is egg yolk.
Coconut Turrón: Contains authentic, natural coconut.
Fruit Turrón: A mix of fruit in syrup, sweetened or natural, together with the rest of the traditional ingredients.
Chocolate Turrón: Different types of chocolate turrón include coffee, raisins with rum, whisky, truffles, oranges, kiwi, and chocolate mousse.