How to make Jijona or Alicante nougat
Nougat is the Mediterranean sweet par excellence. Traditionally consumed at Christmas time, it has become the favorite dessert of most Spaniards, but how is Jijona and Alicante nougat made? What ingredients is it made of?
In this page we will explain how we make our nougat in a simple way. Don’t miss a step.
The original nougat recipe
We cannot explain how nougat is made without first talking about the first nougat that existed. The primitive nougat was not as we know it today, as with the passing of time it underwent some small changes.
The origin of the first nougat dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. This nougat was possibly very similar to today’s Turrón de Guirlache, made with mixtures of nuts and honey. It is logical to find honey foods mixed with dried fruits and nuts all over the Mediterranean since, in addition to being a food with a high nutritional value, it is easy to manufacture and preserves perfectly.
The recipe for the primitive nougat seems to have evolved over time. First, to improve its appearance and texture, egg white was added and later, when honey became scarce, sugar was added, thus giving birth to Alicante nougat (hard).
The Jijona nougat (soft) came some time later when a soft paste was created with the Alicante nougat. If you want to know more, we invite you to read this complete article about the history of nougat.
How is nougat made? The process step by step.
The recipe for Jijona and Alicante nougat has been handmade in the same way for more than 500 years. Only the incorporation of sugar is noteworthy.
The most important changes came at the end of the 19th century with global industrialization. The change from wood fire to the use of steam boilers led to the re-invention of the machinery necessary to manufacture nougat and meant that during the 20th century the typical Christmas sweet par excellence was manufactured in greater quantities and reached the whole world.
The nougat manufacturing process is simple but requires a great deal of experience and savoir faire.
Making nougat at home is very difficult because, in Jijona, every part of the process has an expert who controls that everything goes perfectly. A small error in any process can mean throwing away a “cooked” product. Below we show you the nougat manufacturing process organized step by step.
1º - Almond roasting
In all the world’s recipes there is an indispensable and predominant main ingredient. In the case of nougat, the main ingredient is the almond , which makes up 70% of the weight of the product. The higher the quality of the almonds, the better and more delicious the nougat. In our company we use different varieties depending on the type of nougat and the vintage.
When to eat Marcona almonds, in spite of being the most expensive almond on the market, is the one that makes the best nougat, why? For its oil, for its fat. The more oil the less water and the more flavor. Just like a good meat or a good Iberian ham, fat is the element that gives taste to food. In this case, since it is a fat of vegetable origin, from nuts, it contributes to good cholesterol.
When the almonds arrive at our facilities, they are selected and introduced into drums called toasters. These drums are similar to concrete mixers and rotate constantly. With the help of controlled heat, the almonds are toasted slowly and evenly on all sides. Once roasted to its exact point, as shown in the image, the almonds are allowed to cool to room temperature before entering the mechanics.
2º - The preparation of the Caramel and the mixture.
In our 1854 nougat recipe, caramel is the name given to the resulting mixture of honey, sugar and egg white.
These ingredients are mixed in a large pot called “mechanical” (so called during the industrialization of nougat when it was steam-powered). This pot is a kind of thermomix for making nougat with a mixer function.
First, the sugar and honey are mixed at a constant temperature. Thanks to mixing blades that rotate at a constant speed, the so-called caramel is obtained. Once it is well mixed, the egg white is added, obtaining the characteristic white color and making a perfect emulsion.
This process is a determining factor during the nougat manufacturing process. For this purpose, there is the figure of the “melero” who is the person in charge of ensuring that this process is perfect. He is in charge of giving the exact point to the caramel. This point is commonly known as the “Garguirol point” or “ball point” and means that the candy breaks with a slight blow. Enough to be chewed without breaking our teeth.
3º - How is the hard Alicante nougat made?
The first nougat to be made in the recipe is the Alicante nougat . Once the caramel is ready it is time to add the toasted almonds to the mixture. With the help of shovels, all the almonds are mixed to create the famous Alicante nougat.
Initially, the first steps of the nougat are identical in the Jijona and Alicante varieties, but after this last step, the Alicante and Jijona varieties take different paths.
On the one hand, the Alicante nougat is boxed and pressed in rectangular molds called “caixons”, creating blocks of nougat weighing about 15 kilograms. After a cooling time, the block is cut and divided into the typical nougat tablets. On the other hand, the soft variety still has to go through its process.
4º - How is the soft Jijona nougat made? The stone mill
Once the hard nougat has been made and allowed to cool, it is chopped and added to a large stone mill that grinds it into a fine liquid paste of almonds and honey. These mills are similar to a conventional flour mill. Depending on the customer, the nougat can be refined more or less. In this step more toasted almonds are added.
5º - The boixet: essential for cooking nougat
The “boixet” is part of the indispensable machinery to make Supreme quality Jijona nougat. In it, the soft texture resulting from the mill is introduced and heated to create a compact and fine mixture of honey and almond. It is a kind of hot mortar that is mainly used to re-melt the honey and sugar so that a well-bonded mixture remains with the almonds.
Once the ideal point of thickness has been obtained, which is exclusively in charge of the “arrematador”. The nougat is boxed in molds and left to rest for a minimum of 24 hours. During this time, the almond, of which 70% is part, loses part of its natural oil. Remember, the more oil the better the quality.
Once left to rest and cool, it is cut manually with a kind of guillotine into traditional bars.
How is nougat made? Full video summary:
We believe that the best way to show how we make our turrones is with this video summary of only 2 minutes. The processes described above can be observed.
Ingredients of the nougat: 100% natural and Mediterranean.
Although there are different types of nougat in the market, in this post we will talk about the Jijona and Alicante varieties. Both the manufacturing process and the ingredients of these two varieties are strongly protected by the Consejo Regulador de Jijona y turrón de Alicante, an organization created in 1939 from the old guild of turroneros of Jijona.
This Regulatory Council of the Protected Geographical Indications JIJONA and TURRÓN DE ALICANTE is responsible for ensuring that strict quality standards are met and that each and every one of the requirements necessary to belong to a Protected Geographical Indication are fulfilled. Among the most important requirements are the minimum percentage of roasted almonds, which shall be 64%, and the percentage of pure honey, which shall be at least 10%. In our nougats this percentage reaches 70% of almonds and 15% of pure honey.
Another indispensable requirement is the product’s manufacturing location. All nougat must be manufactured within the municipality of Jijona (Alicante) and all raw materials must come from Alicante, Castellón or Valencia, regions characterized by the mildness of the Mediterranean climate.
The ingredients of traditional nougat are simple and always of Mediterranean and natural origin: toasted almonds, pure honey, sugar and egg white.
Both sugar and honey are natural preservatives and almonds can easily withstand the passage of time so no artificial preservatives are necessary. On the other hand, egg white is used as a bleaching agent, so the only colorant used is totally natural.
The fact that the ingredients are all natural, demonstrates and reinforces the idea that both the original nougat recipe and the manufacturing process have not changed in centuries. The main change: The industrialization of nougat.
Quality of the artisan nougat from Jijona and Alicante
The quality of the nougat is determined by the minimum percentage of almonds and honey. The less almonds and honey, the higher the percentage of sugar. In general, 4 different qualities are known: Popular quality nougat. From 30% almond, standard quality nougat. more than 40% almond, extra quality nougat. more than 50% almond and supreme quality nougat, the best nougat on the market . With more than 60% almond
In our online store we only sell nougat supreme quality . If you are interested in knowing everything about the quality of nougat we invite you to visit our website where we tell you all about it.
With what machinery are our nougats and sweets manufactured?
The nougat needs different machines during its manufacturing process but the most essential ones are:
- Almond Toaster: The almonds are toasted over low heat in large drums very similar to concrete mixers.
- The mechanics: The perfect place to assemble the candy: Honey, sugar and egg white. The caramel is also mixed with the almonds.
- The stone mill: Similar to flour mills, two large stones grind the almonds and caramel to create a soft texture that is the origin of Jijona nougat.
- The boixet: Indispensable to make Jijona nougat. It is a hot mortar. In it, the soft texture resulting from the mill is introduced and heated to create a compact and fine mixture.