Every year when August rolls around, I start dreaming of Sicily, and especially of its distinctive frozen treat: granita. Sicily excels in frozen treats, and it’s no wonder. The summer on this beautiful island is hot indeed, and air conditioning is not widely available. I once spent the entire month of August on Sicily, and I can vouch for the intense heat that overtakes Italy’s largest island.
There’s nothing like the taste of a cone overflowing with Sicilian gelato, among the richest and sweetest in Italy. But to cool your body down quickly, I prefer granita, a shaved ice slushy made with fresh fruit and a little sugar.
Granita comes in every flavor imaginable, from kiwi to coffee, lemon, mint, and strawberry. My favorite flavors are watermelon and lemon. Almond granita is the ultimate Sicilian granita flavor, though. It seems that there is nothing Sicilians can’t make with almonds! A popular summer breakfast in Sicily involves a freshly baked brioche served with almond granita.
Different parts of Sicily claim different types of granita. Messina, on Sicily’s northeastern coast, is famous for its granita al caffè. Catania is known for its delicious pistachio-flavored granita. According to many Sicilians, the eastern part of the island makes their granite more liquid, while the consistency of this sweet treat becomes more granular as you move west.
While commercial slushy machines have become more common, there’s nothing like freshly hand-shaven granita in a glass dish. Old-fashioned granita makers use the stainless steel ice scrapers that have been around since the time of our grandparents. Hard to beat!
If you want to make your own Sicilian granita, all you need to do is throw some fresh fruit in a blender with a tiny bit of water and sugar. Once pureed, pour it into a pan and freeze it. Every half-hour or so, scrape the surface with a spoon or fork until the mixture is crystalline.