Keep cool with icy granita

Granita is Italian flavored ice – a fancy slushy for grown-ups.

Kitchen Report
Lemon mint granita is a refreshing treat on a hot summer's day.
Kitchen Report
Raspberry currant granita

Last week we had a heat wave. Rows of 100s marched down the East Coast on the weather map. I swam outside as much as possible. And ice. I ate lots of ice.

Not ice cubes, but delicious and refreshing granita – Italian ice that you can make so easily in your own freezer. Granita is simply combining water, sugar, and fruit flavorings and then freezing it. It’s like a fancy slushy for grown-ups.

I learned a couple of things in this process that might make this even easier for you.

1. You really do need to use a glass dish because you have to use a fork with some force to get the ice out of the pan and you don’t want to scoop up metal into your granita. I did this.

2. Tastes vary wildly on what makes a good granita. I admit I sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between too sweet and too tart. I would never make it as a lemonade tester. None of the recipes I looked at were remotely similar. In fact, no two descriptions of granita were alike either. So to taste really counts here.

Since I still had some fresh currants left over from making currant pie, my first batch was a raspberry-currant granita that came out looking more like a sorbet. I think this had something to do with the fact that granita recipes call for stirring every hour or so, and who has time for that, really? This is when I used (and nearly ruined) a metal pan. Fail.

It was still delicious, though, tangy and tart and refreshing. I sat on my deck and watched the sun go down feeling very … cool as I ate my cool granita/sorbet. But I was determined to make a granita that had ice that sparkled like shards of glass. After swimming across Crystal Lake one evening, my friend Jenna and I paid a visit to the mall to find me a glass baking dish. (Note: Walking around while still wearing a wet swim suit in a cool mall is just as painful as it was last summer and every summer before that.)

This time I wanted to make a lemony, minty granita. This is a great idea for you if mint is now taking over your garden. Every year I am left with more mint than I know what to do with. The recipe below should help, because you need 2 cups of fresh leaves for each batch.

The day I made lemon-mint granita the temperature stayed about 90 degrees F. This gave me the perfect excuse to blast the air conditioner and stay indoors without feeling guilty about missing out on a day of summer. I can’t go outside, see, I have to stir my ice.

The first batch I offered to my friend Ryan who was visiting from Portland, Ore., where it never gets hotter than 70 degrees F. I should have taken his overall overheated misery into consideration before I asked him for his opinion on the granita. “Too sweet,” he said. Determined to please, I halved the amount of sugar and tried again the next day. “Too tart,” he said. Then Goldilocks showed up and we all played a round of Bananagrams. (OK, Goldilocks was a no-show. But Ryan did win the round – this after dissing my granita twice in a row. Geez.)

Anyway. Here are the recipes. Keep them handy. The dog days of summer are straight ahead.

Currant and Raspberry Granita
Serves 4

1 cup currants
2 cups (1 pint) fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Purée the currants and raspberries in a blender. Press the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Add lemon juice.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Boil until the mixture has the consistency of a light syrup, about 4 minutes. Allow to cool.

Stir in the fruit purée and add to an 8″x8″ glass baking dish. Cover with foil and allow to freeze, about 3 hours.

Scoop into glass dishes and serve.

Lemon Mint Granita
Serves 4

1 cup water
3/4 to 1 cup sugar, to taste
2 cups fresh mint leaves
1/2 to 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, about 5 lemons
Zest of one lemon

In a medium saucepan, add water, sugar, and mint leaves. Heat on medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Heat for 4 minutes on low heat (you do not need to boil). Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Remove and discard mint leaves.

Add lemon juice and zest to sugar syrup and stir. Pour into an 8″x8″ glass dish and cover with foil. Place in freezer. Stir the granita every hour or so for up to 6 six hours until frozen.

Scoop out of dish with a fork by raking the ice into shards. Serve in glass dish and garnish with a mint leaf or two.

Related post: Pink and red currant pie

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