It was a trip to Capri that re-acquainted me with granita. On my first afternoon there, just off the hovercraft that had dropped me on the rocky shores from the chaos of Naples, I was strolling down a lane leading to the sparkling Mediterranean and wondering why I had been absent for 30 years, when I came across a granita stand or, rather, a granita truck. Bright pictures of citrus fruit on the top beckoning, I stopped and surveyed what was on sale: lemon or orange granita. That was it. Italian food lesson # 1: keep it simple.
The south of Italy is where the local citrus for the entire country comes from and Neapolitan lemons and Sicilian oranges are indeed unforgettable. I bought a paper cone of lemon granita and kept walking down the sloping path. Essentially, granita is just frozen juice broken up in crystals. In the case of shaved ice, more prevalent in South America, the ice crystals are topped with syrup which trickles down and into the ice. In either case there are only three ingredients: water, fruit and sugar. It’s easy to see where starting where perfectly ripe raw material is the key.
While on my walk, my skin still pale and untouched by the sun that was to brown it in the next days, I was reminded why granita is the perfect Summer thirst quencher. It takes longer to eat than just gulping down a soda or a juice hence the ice melting in your mouth keeps your body temperature cooler for longer. Ok, I might have just made it up. Maybe it just tastes better than a juice and a soda and that is all I needed to know on that day.
Back home, I started making granita every Summer with the lemons from the tree in my garden. When everyone is tired of lemonade and dozens of lemons still sit unused, granita comes to the rescue. But this year, I was tempted to use the first crop of peaches I found at the market and I was not disappointed. Just make sure the peaches, or whatever fruit you decide to use, is ripe, even a touch overripe.
2# Ripe Peaches
1 C Sugar (or more or less depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
Half a lemon
A pinch of salt
- Halve the peaches, remove the pits and quarter them (leaving the skin on). Place them in a heavy pot with the sugar and 1 1/2 C of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook for about 20 minutes or until the peaches are soft. Let cool.
- Place the mixture in a blender with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt and, in batches, puree it. Strain it, pushing as much of the pulp through a strainer, a chinois or cheese cloth. Then discard the solids or, if you are like me, put them in the fridge and add them to your oatmeal or cereal.
- Place the syrup in a shallow pan and put it in the freezer. Every hour, take it out and scrape it with a fork, until completely frozen. It will take approximately 3 to 4 hours.
- Place in a container with tight-fitting lid and keep in the freezer.