Jordan almonds are almonds which are toasted and then covered in a hard sugar shell, which is traditionally white or pastel colored. Many people are familiar with Jordan almonds in the form of wedding favors, although they are also used at other holidays in some regions of the world. The sweets are a form of dragée, confectionery which consists traditionally of nuts covered in a hard shell. In addition to being edible, a dragée also has symbolic meaning, although these meanings vary around the world.
The exact origins of Jordan almonds are not entirely clear. Candied nuts have been given out at Middle Eastern weddings for centuries, and it is certainly possible that Jordan almonds are rooted in Middle Eastern tradition. By the Middle Ages, sugared almonds and similar sweets were very common at weddings, especially in Italy and France. These early Jordan almonds would have been sweetened with honey, rather than sugar, which was not widely available until later in history.
According to some traditions, Jordan almonds are given out at weddings because they symbolize the bittersweet nature of marriage, along with wishes for sweetness and well being for the couple. Almonds themselves tend to be slightly bitter when they are first harvested, while the candy coating tempers the bitterness with sweetness. In the Middle East and parts of Italy, Jordan almonds are also believed to be borderline aphrodisiacs, promoting fertility and a happy conjugal life.
In many cases, Jordan almonds are given out in odd numbers, since an odd number cannot be split in two. This represents a hope that the marriage will succeed, and that the couple will stay together despite the bittersweet trials which they may face. Jordan almonds may also appear at important events like anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations, with an assortment of colored coatings depending on the event. Metallic coatings, for example, are often used for anniversaries.
Many grocers and candy suppliers sell Jordan almonds. When the almonds are being used as wedding favors, they can be wrapped in small bags and tied with ribbon, or they may be scattered on the tables of a reception. The almonds should be stored in a cool dry place, so that the candy coating does not melt or become distorted, and they are generally good for around six months to a year. Using an airtight container is also an excellent idea, as almonds can start to taste slightly stale and bitter if they are exposed to excessive air during storage.