Great Foods of Italy: Granita
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Italy’s favorite frozen treat, granita is a summer must.
Granita is made with water, sugar and different flavorings that can vary from fruits, such as lemon, melon or strawberry, to coffee, almond, mulberry, or pistachio. The texture should fall halfway between the creaminess of gelato and the granularity of sorbet.
The origins of granita are usually traced back to the Arab domination in Sicily. The Arabs brought with them the recipe for sherbet, an iced drink flavored with fruit juices or rose water. Sicilian nobles used the snow collected in winter on the island’s highest mountains to make sorbets, gelato and granita. The snow was stored in the nivieri, special stone constructions built over natural or artificial caves. In the summer, the ice formed was removed and then scratched and covered with fruit or flower syrups (a procedure that survives in the Roman grattacheccha).
Each area of Sicily has its own traditional granita, which depends on what’s available; for example, in Avola, the most classic is almond granita, whereas in Catania pistachio or coffee granitas are the most popular. On the western side of the island, it’s mostly lemon granita. Therefore think twice before ordering a wild berries granita in Sicily, since berries are not naturally found on the island.
For granita to be good, it is essential to use fresh fruit, not frozen, and to avoid syrups and extracts. Otherwise granita risks becoming a glass of crushed ice and sugary fruit-flavored syrups, with lots of preservatives and dyes and very little flavor.
So how do you recognize a good granita? First of all, observe the texture: granita has small ice crystals which you should feel with your tongue; it should be creamy but compact, not liquid and soft like a sorbet. Fruit granita should be made with real fruit and its color look natural; stay away from those displaying fluorescent colors.
Delizia ghiacciata amatissima in Italia, la granita è un must dell'estate.
La granita è preparata con acqua, zucchero e diversi aromi che possono variare dalla frutta, come limone, melone o fragola, al caffè, mandorla, gelso o pistacchio. La consistenza deve richiamare la cremosità del gelato e la granulosità del sorbetto.
Le origini della granita sono normalmente fatte risalire alla dominazione araba in Sicilia. Gli arabi introdussero la ricetta del sorbetto, bevanda ghia