Christmas is approaching fast and, like many other countries, Spain has her own sweets and treats. Let’s take a look.
Last week, I made my way to Jijona, also known as ‘the cradle of turron’. It’s in this little village some 20km north of Alicante, in the middle of almond groves, that Spain’s Christmas sweet no. 1, turron, was ‘invented’.
Surprisingly, the sweet, often called the Spanish nougat, doesn’t have a very long tradition. In the 18th century El Lobo, the most famous company, started to produce turron, grinding almonds, mixing them with sugar, honey and egg white, stirring and stirring, then cutting it into squares.
The turron museum of Jijona documents the making of turron, all by hand in the beginning, to today’s modernized production. There are basically two kinds of turron: very hard one, often with pieces of almond in it and soft one which is mostly made in Alicante. Over the years, this traditional Christmas sweet of Arabic origin, has undergone varieties. Now there is turron de chocolate, turron with candied fruit and much more.
Let’s turn to a custom which I first saw on a Christmas market in Barcelona. The caragtio is a piece of dried tree trunk, dressed up as Papa Noel and with his backend covered by a blanket. During the time approaching Christmas, the cagatio is fed with apples by kids, because, so the story goes, when he is kept well fed and warm with his blanket, at Christmas he will ‘shit’ sweets and little presents which the kids find under the blanket.
If you fear for your teeth, stay away from the hard variety of turron and enjoy polvorones instead. They are little cakes, often compared to biscuits, which melt into almond and butter flavored powder as soon as you get your teeth into them. They are very dry and crumble easily that’s probably why they are wrapped individually and want to be handled with care until they reach their final destination: your taste buds!
The best polvorones are made in Southern Andalucia.
The 6th of January is the day when Roscon de Reyes is eaten all over the country. It’s a large, round bread, glazed and topped with candied fruit and powdered sugar. Hidden in the dough is a coin or a figures of baby Jesus. Who ever finds one or the other will have good luck during the coming year.