The authentic recipe of Sicilian granita
With the approaching of summer, I wanted to discuss about another delicious recipe of Sicily, namely Sicilian granita. Also for this dessert there are misleading opinions and likewise misleading recipes which are not really Sicilian. If you have landed on this blog about my loved Sicily (I am an authentic Sicilian just like granita) it is because you search for information about the authentic Sicilian granita recipe. To find a comprehensive response, I invite you to follow the entire article. Only this way, you’ll discover helpful information about the authentic recipe of this Sicilian dessert.
The definition of granita is iced water flavoured with sugar and fruit juice. It is also called Italian Ice. That is a semi frozen dessert consisting of water, sugar and several kinds of flavours. In reality, the true Sicilian granita is made with lemon, almond and black mulberry. All of the other recipes, namely granita coffee , strawberry and pistachio are not authentic Sicilian recipes, but they come from other parts of Italy. Also in Sicily, granita is a semi froze dessert made of water, sugar and fruit juice. The most of the times, this dessert is prepared with lemon, almond or black mulberry. Almond granita is prepared with the famous almond from Avola, namely the town where this fruit is grown. Only sometimes, this dessert can be prepared with coffee, melon and other kind of fruit also, but I warn you back those are not Sicilian recipes. Hence, the simple definition of this dessert is an ice compound made of frozen and sugared water, flavoured with several kinds of fruits, both dried and fresh.
In Catania, the most traditional Sicilian granita is with lemon. It is usually drunk or eaten along with a big pastry, namely a brioche with a round button on its top, called tuppa . Indeed, this kind of granita is also called a granita c’a brioshia, in Sicilian, while the brioche is also called a brioshia co tuppu (always in Sicilian).
In the village of Aci Sant’Antonio, there is a bar, called Miraglia, where giant brioches are offered to visitors (see the image above). The owner also prepares a giant Sicilian granita where you must soak your big brioche. In the province of Messina, instead, the most famous granita is the one with black mulberry. I ate the latter and I can assure you this is the most delicious granita drink of the world. It is also my favorite granita.
The ancient definition of Sicilian granita, instead, draws her old roots in the history of the island, namely in the history related to the Arab domination. The ancestor of the Sicilian granita is sorbet (see the image), a dessert which was invented by the Arabs, such as the most of Sicilian recipes.The Arabs invented the sherbeth (sorbet), an iced dessert retrieved from the ice from the mounts Etna, Nebrodi and Iblei. In the winter, the Arabs were accustomed to collect and store the ice formed on the tops of these mountains to be reused in summer as a drink. The ice was scratched, flavored and mixed with lemon juice, other fruits and rose water. From this habit, Sicilian granita was also called “rattata” or “grattanella”, namely “scratched ice”. This is another definition of Sicilian granita. In the Middle Age, in Sicily, snow was retrieved by the “nivaroli” (snow hunters) who climbed the top of mounts to collect snow and store it in deep holes dived into the soil. In there, the snow was covered with volcanic ash in order to reuse it in summer. In the beginning of the 1500, it was discovered that melting sea salt and ice created a mixture with a lower fusion and solidification level than the single compounds merged in it. All this explains the perfect balance of a well made granita, which, putting aside the several variants, it is not solid and not even liquid, but creamy. For this main and important feature, Sicilian granita is also called “cremolata”. In the XVI Century, it was also used the “pozzetto”, a wood barrel containing a zinc bucket. The latter was made to rotate through a little handle to take heat off from the mixture and prevent the ice lumps. Those are considered as a flaw on granita. In the XX Century, the usage of ice cream maker changed the conservation and preparation way of the Sicilian granita, allowing to check the perfect consistency of this dessert.
How to prepare the Sicilian granita recipe at your home
The recipe of Sicilian granita is easy to be prepared at home. However, since this dessert enjoys only typical fruit of Sicily, I fear that the savour won’t be the same at your home.
In fact, Sicilian granita is a customary dessert in Sicily. It is sipped especially in summer, at the Sicilian bar and restaurants, where you can taste stunning and delicious cups of granita. The Sicilian chefs also know some little secrets and tricks to make the recipe still more delicious. Moreover, the true granita from Sicily must be tasted only at breakfast, in the morning and in the hottest days of summer. The other dessert you taste after lunch or dinner to clean the savour of the previous meals is sorbet. The latter is the Arab ancestor of the Sicilian granita, but made also with the addition of alcohol and milk. Indeed, when I eat or rather sip a sorbet at the restaurant I always have stomach pain because I don’t tolerate milk and alcohol. Instead, when I sip my loved lemon granita or black mulberry granita, without those (for me) dangerous ingredients, I feel very well! Provided that the Sicilian granita is made only with organic ingredients. Rather, I also warn you that in many bars and restaurants , the Sicilian granita is made with preservatives and chemical syrups which resembles the fruit juice. For this reason, you must also taste this dessert in places where chefs prepare it only through organic ingredients and real fruit juices.
Anyway, if you are eager to know the recipe of Sicilian granita in order to prepare it at your home, I provided you with some helpful information. I split my information upon the several kinds of recipes. Let’s start from the frozen and sugared water where you must add your favourite ingredients or fruits (lemon, almond, black mulberry and so on).
Every kind of granita, not only Sicilian, but also any kind of Italian ice, is always prepared with a syrup of water and sugar. Hence, this is the basis of the recipe. Meld a bit of sugar in a bit of boiling water. Turn the flame off and cool the mixture. Then, add the juice of your favourite ingredients and freeze in the freezer. To give a creamy consistence to the mixture, stir it every 30 minutes, manually. To avoid to manually stir the dessert every 30 minutes, you can use the mixer or the ice cream maker 20 minutes before serving Sicilian granita.
The only thing that changes in this recipe is the dose of the ingredients. They are proportioned to the kind of granita you want to prepare. Above all, the sugar and water quantity will be different on the basis of the fruit juice you’ll use. That is why I created different paragraphs for the several kinds of Sicilian granita.
To prepare lemon granita, meld 200 ml of sugar in 500 ml of boiling water. Cool the mixture and add 500 ml of lemon juice to it. Before blending the juice, check that it is well filtered from impurities and seeds. Store everything in the freezer and check every 30 minutes to stir the mixture. This procedure prevents the surface of the mixture to solidify. After three hours, you can serve your granita lemon. This recipe can also be seasoned with mint leaves.
Sicilian almond granita recipe
After the previous recipe, here you’ll learn how to prepare the Sicilian almond granita recipe. This is the most famous recipe in Sicily because prepared with the authentic almond from the island. This fruit comes from the stunning village of Avola, where it has always been grown. To prepare this customary Sicilian dessert, you must meld a 400 g of almond paste in a litre of warm milk. Unfortunately, at the supermarket, there is not the original Sicilian almond paste, but only a strange compound made of the usual and dangerous chemical substances. For this reason, I suggest that you prepare the almond past by yourself. First of all, to prepare the small almond dough, you need 400 g of Sicilian dry almonds, 400 g of sugar and 15 cc of cold water. Boil almonds for a minute, then, drain and lukewarm them. After this procedure, peel the almonds and blend them in the mixer. Then, boil water and melt sugar in it. Stir continuously until the sugar has completely melted. At this stage, pour the powder of the chopped almonds into the mixture and stir it until the same has become a bit more solid, but still moldable. Turn off the flame and lay the dough on a wet surface. Cool it for 30 minutes. After all this, melt the dough in a litre of warm milk. Cool the mixture and store it in the freezer, stirring through a whip every 30 minutes for four hours. The Sicilian almond granita recipe can be eaten along with brioche and cream.
Black mulberry granita recipe
The black mulberry granita is an authentic and delicious Sicilian recipe because it uses another typical Sicilian fruit, namely black mulberry. That is the fruit of a wild tree which spontaneously grows in many zones of my loved Sicily (also near my home. I live in Noto Valley). To prepare this kind of Sicilian granita, you need a kg of black mulberry, a lemon and 200 g of sugar. Wash the fruits, drain and blend them carefully through a masher. Squeeze a lemon and add the juice to the black mulberry pulp. Prepare the syrup with boiling water and sugar, melt sugar into 500 ml of water and continue simmering. Cool the syrup and add the pulp of black mulberry. Stir carefully and store in the freezer for 30 minutes. After this time, pour the cooled mixture in the ice cream maker to stir the dessert for twenty minutes.
Pistachio granita recipe
This kind of recipe is not an authentic Sicilian granita. Many sources say that the pistachio granita recipe is absolutely Sicilian because it is prepared with Bronte’s pistachio, namely with the fruit of the village where this product grows. In reality, chopped pistachio is added to Sicilian cannoli. The latter is an authentic Sicilian recipe with pistachio. The chopped fruit is sprinkled inside the cream and on the dough of cannoli. Anyway, if you want to know how to prepare also Sicilian granita with pistachio, you must always the syrup of water and sugar with the same procedure I described in the previous granita recipes. Then, add chopped pistachio and when the syrup has cooled, add a bit of almond milk. When the mixture will be perfectly melted, let it cool more in the freezer. Then, pour the compound in the ice cream maker and serve it for breakfast along with a brioche.
Even granita with coffee is not an authentic Sicilian granita. You can sip and taste this granita in many Sicilian bars and restaurants, but, maybe, this recipe was imported from other Italian regions. What is in reality a granita coffee? A drink, a dessert? I think this is only a granita drink seasoned with coffee. However, if you love making this dessert at your home, I provided you this recipe, also. To prepare granita coffee, you must always prepare the syrup with simmering water and sugar where you must add 500 ml of coffee. The mixture must be stored in the freezer for four hours and must be stirred every 30 minutes. This kind of granita is delicious when served with cream on it.
Sicilian granita Vs Italian ice
After reading about the several recipes to prepare granita at your home, I am sure that now you know the difference between Sicilian granita and Italian Ice. Both of them are a dessert made of frozen water and sugar flavoured with different kinds of fruits or aromas. Well, if you are eager to get a plain comparison between Sicilian granita vs Italian Ice, you must only know that the authentic Sicilian granita is made only with organic ingredients such as lemon, almond and black mulberry, while many recipes of Italian ice are made with other fruits, such as melon, peach, fig, strawberry and so on. Unfortunately, some kinds of Italian ice are made not with fruits, but only with chemical essences of these fruits, namely with artificial compounds. If you want to taste the authentic Sicilian granita, you must follow the instructions I provided you about this recipe or, rather, you should visit my loved Sicily and find out the place where granita is prepared only with the organic ingredients I mentioned here, namely lemon, almond and black mulberry.
In Sicily, you can also find chocolate granita that in my loved island is made with the dark chocolate from Modica. The rules to prepare this recipe are always the same, only that you must add bitter cocoa and chopped dark chocolate to the sugared syrup. Many sources talk about the chocolate granita from Catania. They mentioned this recipe because in Catania, this kind of granita is absolutely delicious, even though it is not an authentic Sicilian recipe. You can also eat chocolate granita in Messina along with cream and the inevitable brioche with the tuppo (see the image).
Photo credits in order of appearance (featured image excluded)
Marina Perotta Flickr