Peppermint candy canes, eggnog, and Christmas cookies…these are the flavors that conjure up Christmas to me. It has been a revelatory experience to discover that they don’t for the rest of the world! So, for purely cultural research reasons, I have been tasting and testing the sweets that Spanish people wait for all year long to eat at the most wonderful time of the year.
Boxes of turrón stacked up in Francisco’s shop La Oliva in Granada
Turrón is unquestionably the king of Christmas sweets here. It has been a part of Spanish Christmas celebrations since the 16th century! Boxes upon boxes (and in fact, aisles upon aisles) of turrón pop up in the major grocery stores towards the end of November (without Thanksgiving to officially mark the beginning of the Christmas season, Spanish retailers begin stocking for Christmas as early as the beginning of November).
What is turrón exactly? One of the most traditional kinds of turrón, turrón de jijona, is made of chopped toasted almonds, honey, sugar and egg whites. Almonds and honey are primary ingredients in sweets from the Arabian peninsula, where the earliest ancestors of turrón may have originated. This mass is cut into rectangles, similar in appearance to a typical chocolate bar. While turrón de jijona has a soft texture, other traditional turrón is hard, like nougat. There are hundreds and hundreds of turrón flavors sold today, catering to every taste imaginable- marzipan ones, chocolate ones, fruit-flavored ones…
We sampled the turrón de jijona y turrón de crema catalana (a toasted custard flavor). The jijona is quite crumbly. The crema catalana has the texture of fudge but with a strong egg yolk flavor. Turrón is quite distinct from our Christmas sweets but I find myself already craving it!
PS- In the spirit of Christmas, I’ve enabled WordPress’ Let it Snow feature, so if you notice some falling white dots on the blog, don’t be alarmed!