When summer comes, with its torrid days, Sicilians know perfectly how to improve the situation and find immediate refreshment: enjoying a delicious granita, fresh and sweet at the same time! In fact, for Sicilians granita is a real ritual, as well as a valid substitute for any meal of the day, and is among those delicacies that make you forget any diet or the hours lost in the gym to shed a few extra pounds.
Besides being a pleasure for the palate, granita is a symbol of Sicily also and especially for its ancient origins, which date back to the Arab domination. From then on it has undergone some changes, but has never lost its ability to unite, cheer and delight anyone.
History of the Sicilian granita
Tradition traces the origins of the real granita, the Sicilian, in the eastern side of the island where, since the Middle Ages, there was a very particular profession, that of the “nivaroli”; the latter, during the winter, were responsible for collecting snow on Mount Etna and Mounts Peloritani, Iblei and Nebrodi to keep it, during the year, in the “neviere” until the following summer. Even today there are the original holes where ice was stored.
But why was snow kept? To assign it to the patricians, the local nobles, who in order to face the heat of the warmer months asked the servants to prepare them a sort of sorbet based on grated snow. To make the drink even more tasty, coffee, lemon juices, mulberries and almonds were added.
Preparation of granita: how it evolved
Until the early twentieth century, the granita was known as “rattata”, ie scratched. His recipe has improved over the years and, in some cases, sea salt was added to make snow a cooling product.
In the meantime the “cockpit” was also born, that is a wooden barrel with inside a zinc bucket that could be turned by a knob; the empty space was filled with a lot of jute filled with snow and salt, to freeze and avoid the formation of ice crystals too large thanks to the rotary movement of some blades mounted inside.
During the twentieth century, then, several changes were introduced: snow was replaced by water, sugar with honey and the manual cockpit first with the creamer and then with the ice cream maker, which allows you to make a creamy granita, super tasty and loved all over the world.
The original recipe of Sicilian granita
There are different variants of Sicilian granita, each with a different flavor, but the traditional is definitely the lemon granita. Unlike other flavors, in fact, the lemon is found in any province, often even outside of Sicily.
Here is the original recipe for homemade Sicilian lemon granita:
- 2 glasses of water
- 1 glass of lemon juice
- 1 glass and 1/2 of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of starch
- add sugar and starch and add water and lemon juice;
- mix to melt sugar;
- it is poured into a steel container and with low walls;
- You transfer the container to the freezer, stirring occasionally.
When the liquid has solidified, you can serve the granita in two ways: scratching it with a spoon or blending it into pieces in the blender for a few seconds. In any case, the result beautiful to see and good to taste is absolutely guaranteed!
And to fully respect the tradition, the advice is to taste the granita with the addition of cream and accompanied by the classic “brioche with tuppo”: the first can be mixed with the rest to create a delicious cream, while the second must be consumed alongside the granita, therefore accompanying it from beginning to end.
Sicilian granita and typical flavors
As already mentioned, Sicilian granita is available in many flavors that can satisfy any preference. Generally all tastes are found in all Sicilian provinces, but some are typical of specific places, for example:
- in Messina the protagonists are coffee granita and strawberry, categorically accompanied by cream;
- In Catania, on the other hand, the pistachio granita and the “macchiata” almond granita are a must.
The lemon granita, as already seen, can be found almost everywhere, while the gem that leaves anyone amazed to taste it for the first time is the mulberry granita.