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It’s not gelato, it’s not slushy. Its taste? The one of a summer in Sicily, sitting in a front-beach bar. The Sicilian Granita is a delightful frozen treat that has captivated taste buds for centuries. Born from a fusion of Arab and Italian culinary traditions, it has become an iconic symbol, if not the protagonist, of Sicilian summer. 

The roots of Sicilian Granita can be traced back to the Arab influence on the island during the 9th century. The Arabs brought with them the recipe for sherbet, an iced drink flavoured with fruit juices or rose water. The local nobles used the snow that was gathered in the mountains in winter, also on Etna volcano, and stored during the year. In summer, in fact, the snow was scraped off and used for the preparation of sorbets and ice creams to be enjoyed in times of heat.

To make it tastier, they poured squeezed lemon  juice or fruit or flower syrups on top.

Granita evolved then from this cultural exchange to create a luscious, semi-frozen delicacy. 

Traditional recipes of Sicilian Granita call for fresh, ripe fruits such as lemons, oranges, almonds, or berries. The chosen fruit is juiced or pureed, and the resulting liquid is combined with sugar to create a sweet base. The mixture is then poured into shallow pans and placed in a freezer. What sets it apart is the meticulous process of periodically scraping the mixture with a fork as it freezes, creating a grainy, crystalline texture.

Sicilian Granita comes in a multitude of flavors, each capturing the essence of the island's abundant harvest. Lemon Granita, arguably the most iconic, showcases the vibrant citrus groves of Sicily. Other popular choices include almond, coffee, chocolate, pistachio, and mulberry. It has become a symbol of the dolce far niente, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike during the hot summer months. 

It's common to find Sicilians savoring this frozen delight, relishing the cool relief it provides under the Mediterranean sun. Granita is in fact generally enjoyed at breakfast or as a snack, not as dessert at the end of a meal. And above all, it must be rigorously paired with a brioche col tuppo, a soft and fragrant pastry which you must dip into it, starting right from the tuppo (the bulge).

For Sicilians, granita isn’t just a refreshing treat – it’s a ritual, as coffee is for many. It stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of Sicilian cuisine, blending history, tradition, and flavor in every spoonful, and it transports you to the sun-drenched shores of this picturesque island.

Words by Asia Pedron​

Photo credits: @bartrentocatania, @belmondgrandhoteltimeo



Read more about water, craft, art, design, and much more in our issue 02. WATER

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