Wikispanishfood editorial team
Turrón, a sweet made with toasted almonds, pine nuts, walnuts or hazelnuts mixed with sugar or honey, has very clear ties to Christmas and peaks in popularity at the end of the year. There is much debate among experts about varieties and this product's definition, and some even consider sweets made from egg, chocolate or coconut to be turrón. Greek athletes who competed in the Olympics used to eat this high-energy food.
It most certainly comes from the Mediterranean, and in Spain it's made primarily in Xixona, Alcoi and Alicante. In Xixona, the turrón industry dates back to 1780, and has had the exclusive Specific Designation since 1940 and the Designation of Origin Turrón de Xixona y Alicante since 1991. In Catalonia, Torró d´Agramunt has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
Turrón is one of the great gastronomic myths of artisan sweets from Spain, and is made from top-notch almonds, pure bee's honey, egg whites, sugar and wafers, and in the case of turrón from Xixona, all ingredients much come exclusively from Alicante, Castellón and Valencia.
Dispute between Catalonia and Alicante
Turrón's origins are controversial and uncertain, and Catalonia and the city of Alicante both claim that this centuries-old sweet was invented in their territory, with documents, official letters and 15th and 16th century cookbooks to prove it. In his work Conduchos de Navidad, Martínez Montiño talks about the custom of eating turrón during the Christmas festivities. Charles III issued an ordinance which allowed for the traveling sale of turrón forty days prior to Christmas. In both cases, there may be sufficient evidence to prove that it comes from one place or the other, but what we do know for sure is that it was brought to Spain by the Arabs.
Industrial turrón (which, like artisan turrón, is available in both hard and soft formats, depending on how long the honey is cooked) is sold in rectangular bars weighing between 100 and 300 grams. There are also many homemade varieties which use very similar formats to industrial types, although sometimes specific ingredients from a certain town or region are used.
Migration by master turrón-makers
In most cases, master turrón-makers have been passing down their expertise from generation to generation for centuries. Although it was difficult for some time to find this product outside of Spain's east coast, migration by people from Valencia and Alicante to Madrid, Barcelona, and other industrial cities which began at the end of the last century also led to a massive spread of turrón which, until that time, was only known among very elite circles.
Where can you buy turrón in Madrid? Logically, turrón is available in many places, but if you're looking for the best artisan products, there are a few shops worth highlighting. The very well-known CASA MIRA, which was opened by Alicante-born Luis Mira in 1855, often sees very long lines in the days leading up to Christmas. The MALLORCA shops, a chain that has been well-installed in Madrid for the last 50 years, also offers excellent turrón. EL RIOJANO is another popular locale, founded in 1855 by Dámaso Maza, personal pastry chef to Queen Maria Christina. A centuries-old pastry shop with excellent Christmas products is DEL POZO, and another is LHARDY, which always has artisan turrón in its shop and deserves a special mention for its excellent sweets.
In Alicante, MONERRIS SIRVENT is an outstanding option for turrón, and in Catalonia, turrón from Agramunt can be sampled from the company Torrens Vicens S.L., which collaborates with chef Albert Adrià, who has breathed new life into the turrón scene.
These delicious products are perfect for everyone during the holidays, and they pair wonderfully with sweet wines like Pedro Ximénez and Moscatels from Alicante, which were created especially to accompany culinary gems, among which turrón is a true standout.
CASA MIRA. Carrera de San Jerónimo, 30. Tel.: 914 298 895
MALLORCA. Bravo Murillo, 7 Tel.: 914 489 749
EL RIOJANO. Mayor, 10. Tel.: 913 664 482
DEL POZO. Pozo 8, Tel.: 915 223 894
LHARDY. Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8. Tel.: 915 222 207
MONERRIS SIRVENT. Avda. Alfonso el Sabio, 16. Tel.: 965 217 535. Alicante.
TORRONS VICENS. Ctra. de Tárrega, 1. Tel.: 973 390 607. Agramunt. Lleida.