Some of my fondest memories of my (too few) visits to Sicily are of sitting in the café in the morning and having a Granita di Limone (Italian Lemon Ice) and brioche for breakfast. That’s right, I said for breakfast. In the summer in Sicily, granita and gelato are breakfast foods. That’s what I call paradise!
It’s pretty near impossible to duplicate the granita you get in Sicily at home, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Lemon, which is my favorite flavor, is particularly hard to match because a Sicilian lemon has a flavor all it’s own. That being said, through years of experimentation and tweaking, I have been able to come up with a pretty tasty and refreshing facsimile.
To be honest, I had long tried to avoid the method for freezing the granita that I use in this recipe for a couple of reasons. First, the texture is not quite the same as the area of Sicily my family is from, the east coast near Messina. There the granita is smoother with soft bits of ice. Second, it is a bit of a pain in the neck having to take the mixture out of the freezer every half hour to stir it up. I have had good results using an ice cream machine, but the problem with that is you need to eat it all immediately, because it doesn’t freeze well. Put it in the freezer overnight and you have a block of ice. The freezer method produces nice granules that scoop out easily and retain their texture.
So, in the end I capitulated because doing it this way I can make a batch and have it in my freezer for a Sicilian breakfast or just a refreshing snack on a hot day as I please. However, if you want to make it faster and try a smoother granita, just follow steps 1-3 and then process it in your ice cream machine until the granita is slushy with little chunks of soft ice, 20-30 minutes. Either way is delicious!
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 to 4 lemons
- Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved, making a simple syrup. Remove from heat.
- Using a vegetable peeper, peel the zest off of one lemon leaving as much of the pith on the lemon as possible. Stir the lemon zest into the sauce pan with the simple syrup. Let sit until it cools to room temperature. Once cool strain the mixture into a bowl, and discard the lemon zest.
- Juice the lemons to make 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Stir the lemon juice into the bowl with the syrup.
- Transfer the mixture to a flat metal pan and pace in the freezer. Every 30 minutes take the mixture out and stir it up with a fork, breaking up any ice crystals that form. Do this for 3-4 hours. As the mixture gets more frozen you will be scraping the ice with the fork to mix it up.
- If you want a granita that is more slushy to be eaten immediately, stop after 3 hours. If you want one that is more granular that will store for a couple of days in the freezer go to 4 hours scraping the frozen mixture with the fork to create ice crystals.
- Follow steps 1 through 3 above, then process mixture in an ice cream maker until the granita is slushy with little chunks of soft ice, 20-30 minutes.