It’s hot. Really hot. Summer has come, at long last, obviously determined to make up for lost time. And although I’m happy for those who’ve been missing summer’s hot temps, and happy to get the sunshine to my sad looking garden, my Irish-Scottish-Finnish background just does not agree with 90 degrees and 90% humidity, especially in a house without air conditioning.
Normally, in weather like this, I live on popsicles. In fact, I’ve been known to have nothing but popsicles and chilled white wine for dinner. My favorite are Edy’s lime popsicles, which, I realize, are completely non-local. So sue me – it’s hot. But since we ran out of lime popsicles and I didn’t manage to get to the store in time yesterday, I decided to try something new: a granita.
Granita is pureed ripe fruit, mixed with a little sugar and sometime alcohol, and stirred up with a fork every so often in order to develop a characteristic fluffy-icy texture. Before I left home for the Catskills last weekend, I had the last of the season’s ripe wineberries and a very ripe 1/2 cantaloupe in the fridge, but I had no time to do anything with them in the midst of preparing for Bachelorette Weekend. I stuck them in the freezer, thinking I would thaw them later and make a granita. The chest freezer has been a real boon to projects like this, as in the past, by this time of year, there would be no room for 1/2 a cantaloupe in my freezer, let alone a roasting pan full of puree.
I made the granita last night. It’s my kind of hot-summer cooking; no stove, no chopping, just pop some fruit in the food processor, stir and freeze. It’s also a lot more local than lime popsicles, since the wild wineberries were from my yard and the cantaloupe from my farmer’s market. Although I did eat some of it last night, it took more than 4 hours to freeze properly – today I have a big pan full of frozen melony-berry deliciousness, with just the tiniest hint of tequila. I just had some of it’s cool, refreshing yumminess, and I’m going back for seconds. Excuse me.
Adapted from Fruit Ice in The Vegetarian Table, Mexico by Victoria Wise
- 1 and 1/2 lb ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced (about 4 cups of 1/2-inch chunks)
- 4 cups wineberries, or other raspberry or blackberry
- 1/3 cup fine sugar
- 3 tbsp tequila
- pinch sea salt
- Puree berries in a food processor. If desired, push the berry puree through a fine sieve or food mill in order to remove the seeds. (I left mine in; I could sell you a story about how I thought the seeds would add interesting texture, but honestly I was too lazy to go downstairs to get the food mill. I think it would be better without the seeds, however, so next time I’ll try not to be so lazy. Did I mention that it’s hot?). Transfer berry pulp to a large bowl.
- Puree cantaloupe chunks. I found a tablespoon of tequila added to the food processor at this point helped the melon to a smooth puree consistency. Add melon puree to the berry puree.
- Mix in remaining tequila, sugar and salt. Taste and adjust sugar to desired level of sweetness. Transfer mixture to a brownie or lasagna pan and place on a level surface in the freezer.
- Freeze, occasionally scraping up ice crystals with a fork, for several hours. Break up ice crystals according to your schedule: most granita recipes say every 30 minutes, in order to achieve that granular granita texture. The Fruit Ice recipe I adpated says every 2 hours. I’ve done it about every hour here. The whole thing takes about 6 – 8 hours to freeze properly but will last several days in the freezer.
Yields about 3 pints granita.
- This recipe is quite adaptable to a range of fruits – honeydew melon, watermelon, ripe peaches, strawberries, blueberries – all seem like fine candidates.
- Adjust the sugar to your desired level of sweetness, depending on how sweet the fruit is. For superfine sugar, you can use turbinado sugar after pulsing a few times in a clean, dry food processor. (I used beet sugar which is naturally quite fine).
- The tequila is not absolutely required, but the alcohol does prevent the mixture from freezing completely solid so that you can scoop it out to serve. If you can’t abide tequila (I used Silver Patron, because that is what we had in the house, but don’t tell Tai!), try substituting a 1/4 cup of a sparkling white like champagne, cava or prosecco, or 3 tbsp of vodka or rum.
Covered, in the freezer, for a few weeks.