Granita, a Refreshing Dessert for a Sicilian Summer Day
If you ask a Sicilian which is the most refreshing and thirst-quenching dessert for a hot summer day, she or he will certainly answer: “Granita, certamente!” (Granita, of course!).
Granita is a frozen dessert made with water and a syrup base, much like sherbet. It’s origins date back to the Arab domination in Sicily which has left so much to the island in spite of its relatively short period (827-1091 A.D.).
In the past the granita was a privilege only for the rich and aristocratic families as it was made using the snow gathered on Mount Etna and on the Peloritani and Nebrodi mountains, then stored in natural caves and extracted during the summer.
Every province of Sicily offers specially flavored granitas using seasonal fruits or ingredients typical of the area. The most popular granitas are made with fresh lemons, almonds, strawberries and coffee.
Catania is the homeland of almond granita, the so-called “minnulata catanese” which is sweet and delicious. The almonds contain a very small portion of bitterness very rich in aroma. Granita made with pistachios from Bronte is also very typical of that area.
Messina has a very tempting speciality, the coffee granita served in a particular glass in which the granita made with espresso coffee is topped with freshly whipped cream… impossible to resist!
Palermo’s favorite, which is also the most popular granita throughout the island, is the lemon granita. The main characteristic of the lemon granita made in Palermo is the texture with its creaminess and more granular ice crystals.
In Sicily, granita may be served at breakfast with the typical brioche, or at any other time of the day. What’s most important is the freshness and genuineness of the ingredients.
Recipe of Sicilian Granita al Limone
This is a recipe that I enjoy using because of it is fast and easy. All you must remember is “one, two, three”.
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups water
Squeeze as many lemons necessary to fill one cup. Filter the juice and put aside. Heat the water, add the sugar and stir until the syrup is clear. Add the lemon juice, stir and pour into a container. When the mixture cools a bit, set the container in the freezer. After 2 hours stir the granita breaking the frozen surface and continue this procedure until it reaches the right consistency.