Granita is the Sicilian variation of Italian ice and this recipe makes for a pucker-inducing blackcurrant and cherry dessert that’s easy to customize with other fruits.
Sicily was one of the stops on the Mediterranean cruise planned for our upcoming honeymoon. At this point, there is no chance we’re going to make it there this fall, and honestly, who knows when we will. Yet Sicily is a destination I am eager to visit.
As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is home to castles, cathedrals, ancient walls and mosaics, not to mention mountains and one of the world’s most active volcanoes: Mount Etna. There’s so much to explore and experience that a cruise stop would only serve a small taste of what the island has to offer.
The food of Sicily
Sicily is located halfway between Greece and North Africa. Because of this, its food culture is a reflection of the varied trade routes on which the island lies as well as its many past occupants. Although today Sicily makes up one of Italy’s twenty regions, the cuisine is not just Italian. It’s also influenced by Greek, Arab, Norman, Spanish and French cultures.
The island is well-suited to sustain such a diverse range of foods. The activity of its volcanoes creates fertile soil that’s ideal for growing some of their most popular crops. You'll find citrus fruits, tomatoes, olives, almonds, pistachios, and grapes, among several others. Sicily is also one of the largest wine-producing regions in all of Italy. Of course, the mild climate and Mediterranean sea rich with tuna, sardines, and anchovies, helps ensure there is no shortage of fresh seafood.
With so much food diversity, it’s impossible to pick a recipe that reflects all that Sicily has to offer. But I looked to the blackcurrants about to burst on the bush in my yard and the juicy sour cherries I picked from Champlain Orchards. I knew I had to incorporate fruit in this week’s recipe. Considering the heat, something cold sounded good too.
The closest thing to granita in America is Italian ice. Essentially, granita is a type of fresh Italian ice that originated in Sicily. The difference is that granita has a bit more crunch and flakiness to its texture. Italian ice and sorbet are smoother, creamier, and more compact. These are small differences, really. At the end of the day, granita is made up of similar ingredients: fruit, water, sugar, and flavoring. The texture may vary throughout Sicily depending on how it’s made. But at home, you can achieve the flakiness of granita by scraping the liquid mixture with a fork as it freezes.
Make granita with any fruit
I love all things sour, hence my supply of blackcurrants and sour cherries. Combined, along with some lime juice, it's quite the pucker inducer. I like to balance this out by topping a dish of this granita with plenty of sweetened whipped cream and then lightly stirring the two together.
Though if sour is not your thing, it’s easy to customize the flavor of granita and use other fruits. Blackberry, strawberry, sweet cherry, raspberry, blueberry, and watermelon granita all sound good to me, especially if they're fruits you’ve picked or grown yourself. You can certainly combine flavors too, just stick to about a pound and a half of fruit total. Instead of the lime juice, you can use any other citrus juices or even some wine. As for the amount of maple syrup you use, that depends on how sweet you like things. I always start with less and add more as needed.
Once the granita is completely frozen, it stores well for up to a couple of weeks, or longer, in the freezer. Just scrape it again before serving to achieve that perfect texture.Print