Traditional Products From Toledo
By Izhar Alonso |
Try two must-have souvenirs from Toledo: Iberico ham and marzipan, delicious reflections of the great Spanish gastronomic tradition and culture.
IBERICO HAM AND MARZIPAN
One of the main activities during any trip is shopping for souvenirs. These memories help you take a small piece of your destination to friends, family, and to those who subtly ask you to “bring (them) something back”. Also, they are like small trophies that enrich your collection of memorabilia from the places you’ve visited. No matter where you go, all destinations offer products that symbolize their identity. Thus, today DINKtravelers wants to introduce you to two amazing souvenirs from Toledo: Iberico ham and marzipan from Toledo, reflections of the great Spanish gastronomic tradition and culture.
HISTORY OF IBERICO HAM
Starting with Iberico ham, it’s interesting to point out that its elaboration is absolutely artisanal and that it’s a very valuable ingredient in Spanish gastronomy. You’ll never miss it in restaurant menus and gift shops in Spain. Behind its delicious flavor, there’s a very delicate elaboration process that’s regulated by government institutions and specialists in quality control. This is because this ham is made with select pork meat that is classified according to the animal’s breed and diet. In that sense, one of its most famed varieties is elaborated with meat from 100% pure Iberian pigs. And just as happens with wine aging, Iberico ham can be cured for weeks or even years before it acquires the specifically desired aromas and tastes.
Although its present-day elaboration process was established in the 19th and early 20thcenturies, it’s been ages since this variety of ham became a symbol of the conversion to Catholicism. Actually, during the late Middle Ages, Spanish Jews adopted a tradition that is still practiced nowadays, although now it doesn’t have the same meaning: they used to hang the ham, in plain view, in inns and shops with the purpose of keeping the Inquisition at bay by stating that they ate pork meat, which is opposite to the Jewish custom.
HISTORY OF MARZIPAN
Enjoy your trip to Toledo with Iberico ham croquettes as appetizer, followed by a bowl ofajojblanco soup with small pieces of ham. Then, for dessert, order a marzipan candy. The most widely spread version of its origin says that this product comes from the 8th century, when Arabs reigned over the region. Yet, another legend says that marzipan was created by nuns of the convent of San Clemente in Toledo using sugar and almonds. It seems that they figured out a way to avoid famine in the 11th century, when Toledo ran through a terrible shortage of food supplies after the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. They say that this alternative created by the nuns in order to feed the inhabitants of Toledo even inspired King Phillip III to create the Guild of Confectioners of Toledo. Even so, the first known marzipan recipe dates back to 1525.
If you enjoy combining traditions of different countries with your own festivities, you probably know that it’s common to link the marzipan with Christmas. This is because in the 19th century eel was abundant in the Tajo River and it was always part of Toledo’s Christmas dinner table. However, when they became sparse, confectioners started to make marzipans shaped like eel. That’s how they became part of Spain’s Christmas gastronomic tradition. But don’t worry; you can purchase marzipan in convents and gift shops all around Toledo year-round, so you can plan your trip in any season.