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Granita is definitely the most refreshing, delicate thirst-quenching treat you may ever taste. One word: delicious! It represents one of the most tempting Sicilian treats along with cassata, ricotta cheese cannoli, and geli, I am going to talk about those later on. But now, it is granita time. Yummy! So, let’s, get started!
To be honest, if you were on vacation in Sicily, you would not have granita, but you would enjoy granita-and-brioche. They always come together as Laurel and Hardy: granita must be savored with “brioche con il tuppo” or, more simply, with a slice of durum wheat semolina bread. Of course, if you do want to enjoy granita on its own, you are given a glass full of this magnificent delicacy to satisfy your cravings, but, you know, brioche will get very sad…
What is granita?
Granita is made from water, sugar, and fruit; the mixture is slowly frozen: it is repeatedly mixed with a fork just before getting completely frozen in order to separate the crystals: this stirring process gives Sicilian granita its peculiar creamy thick texture.
As it used to be made …
In the past, granita used to be made from the snow which was gathered on the volcano Etna, or on other Sicilian mounts; the snow was stored in designated areas called “niviere” (icy-caves), natural caves where the temperature was quite constant all the year. The snow gradually turned into ice; during the summer, the surface of the ice was scraped to obtain crystals; little sea salt was added to keep the temperature low. So, a small well of snow and salt was created where a steel container was inserted and continuously rotated to make creamy granita.
For Sicilian people granita makes a thirst-quenching afternoon snack or a special dessert which may replace sorbet. Moreover, it is also very commonly paired with some coffee for a very scrumptious breakfast. It reminds me of my honeymoon travel in Taormina: I had plenty of cool, tasty glasses of granita, along with cannoli, of course!
Soft, cold, yet it is not ice: a creamy silky delicacy which may come in plenty of flavors, but the genuine one is lemon granita. Unbeatable! Enjoy its countless flavors: strawberry, coffee, almond, pistachio-nut (very tempting), chocolate and mint, and so on. You will be spoilt for choice.
You think granita is difficult to make, don’t you? Not at all, indeed! Although you don’t have the ice cream maker (which is good because hand stirred granita according to my method is much better), you will prepare some really toothsome cream. Get used to making it, because tasted once, you will never be able to do without this addictive treat! Warning: if you offer it to your friends, they will show up all the time to enjoy big glasses of granita!
You don’t need much: water, sugar, and your favorite flavors. Then a big steel bowl and a whisk with rigid wire loops, and a freezer. That’s all!
Granita or sorbet? Don’t be mistaken!
Do you know how granita is different from sorbet? Frozen compact (without air) dessert, granita shows coarser texture, and strong flavors. Whereas, sorbet has a finer texture: during the cooling process it must incorporate as much air as possible, that’s why a stiff-peak beaten egg white is added to the ingredient list. Sorbet can be enriched with wine, or liquor such as spumante (sparkling wine) or limoncello.
What should granita be like?
In my opinion, it should have the same texture as the snow- a very careful freezing process will result into a creamy silky dessert without any big icy pieces.
Which flavors should you taste?
- lemon: it must be organic, sweet, sun-ripened and not sour at all. The sweeter, the better!
- citrus fruit (orange or tangerine): either common orange or blood orange fits the recipes well. Follow the same recipe as the lemon granita.
- mulberries and lemon: this combination belongs to the most genuine Sicilian tradition. Mulberries are similar to blackberries- their sweet taste wonderfully pairs with the sourness of the lemon. This is my recipe: squeeze 200g of mulberries or blackberries; sieve the obtained liquid and combine it with 50ml of lemon juice;
- strawberries, melon, water melon: delicious … wonderful fruits which make a crazy good granita. You need about 250ml of well-sieved fruit purée;
- coffee- very short high-quality coffee (Illy or Volluto by Nespresso). You need about 250ml of coffee and 600g of sugar (if sugar can’t dissolve, add some water: warm the compound slightly, it must never boil);
- almond or pistachio-nuts: you need about 300ml of almond or pistachio-nut milk; find the recipe below. Stir and mix thoroughly every 30 minutes for a softer and creamier texture.
How to make almond or pistachio-nut milk for a delicious drink or a tempting granita flavoring
- 250g of peeled almonds or (unsalted, not toasted) pistachio-nuts
- 1 liter of low mineralized water
Grind the almonds: use a good mixer not to heat the almonds. Put the ground almonds into a light white cotton handkerchief or a clean linen tea-towel: gather the corners and close it with a tight knot. Bring the water to a boil, remove from the stove and put the tea-towel with the ground almonds into the water. Let it rest for at least 2 hours. Take the tea-towel and squeeze it as much as you can to extract all the remaining liquid (it is similar to milk cows!)
Add sugar to taste and keep it into a bottle in the fridge. Drink it cold, or use it to make granita.
The recipe of the amazing Sicilian Granita
- 1 liter natural low mineralized or mineral room temperature water
- 500 gr caster sugar
- 250 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
- In a big wide bowl put the sugar and then pour the room temperature water a little at a time;
- Combine well with a whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved;
- Pour the freshly squeezed lemon juice; a little pulp makes granita even more toothsome;
- Mix everything well; use a hand mixer to make it even smoother;
- Put the bowl into the freezer (I have got an upright one, very comfortable);
- During the freezing process, stir granita using a fork or a whisk to break any ice chucks;
- Stir granita every hour until it gets fluffy, finely-iced and creamy, ready to be enjoyed!
How to store granita
If you have some granita left (it is quite unlikely), it will harden! Don’t worry: leave the bowl at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then break the ice chunks with the tines of a fork. In a short while, granita will be creamy again. Sicilian granita keeps well in a air-tight container in the freezer up to 1 month. So, prepare it when you have time, and enjoy granita when you want to.