Jordan almonds are a popular wedding favor, particularly at events hosted by families of Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern descent. In their most classic form, these sugar-crusted confections are candied almonds, though peanuts, pistachios, chocolate, and even coffee beans have replaced the almonds in some modern reincarnations of the treat.
Also known as "dragees" or "Italian confetti," Jordan almonds date back to 1350, when they're mentioned in Giovanni Boccaccio's "Decameron," a collection of novellas. Ancient Romans used to celebrate momentous occasions, such as births and marriages, with this confetti. Until the start of the Renaissance, when sugarcane was introduced into European kitchens, Jordan almonds were made with honey. In lieu of almonds, sometimes dried fruits, aromatic seeds or cinnamon sticks were covered with a hard coating of sugar, and these delicacies were served at many important banquets.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the name Jordan almond may have originated from the French word "jardin," which means garden. Others say Jordan almonds resemble a variety of almond that grows along the Jordan River in Palestine. Nowadays, the term "Jordan almonds" is used to describe any and all candy-coated almonds.
In Greece, where Jordan almonds are known as "koufeta," tradition suggests that when a female guest places the packet of almonds under her pillow she will dream about the man she will marry.
In Middle Eastern countries, Jordan almonds are considered an aphrodisiac.
Almonds are traditionally given in odd numbers, which are indivisible, symbolizing how the newlyweds will share everything equally and remain undivided, and Jordan almonds are often given five at a time. Each almond represents a quality guests wish for the couple getting married:health, fertility, wealth, longevity, and happiness. The combination of bitter almonds and sweet sugar are representations of a couple's life together, with the hopes that the newlywed's experiences will be more sweet than bitter.
Jordan almonds are usually packaged in a small bag or piece of fabric, though some couples tuck them inside a small, decorative box. Couples thinking about using almonds may include the following poem:
Five sugared almonds for each guest to eat,
To remind us that life is both bitter and sweet.
Five wishes for the new husband and wife --
Health, wealth, happiness, children, and a long life!