In the 5th century, B.C., snow was brought down from the mountains north of Athens, and into to the city, most likely to have it doused with wine and honey for a sweet summertime treat. In my mind, it may have resembled what people are now calling “Frosé," which is basically an adult slushy made with Rosé wine.
Not too far west in the Mediterranean, similarly, snow was being brought down from Mount Etna, and mixed with fresh juices and sweeteners, and later coffee, which gave us the precursor to what we know today as Granita (Grah-NEE-ta). Certainly different from Ice Cream (no dairy involved) and not really like Gelato or Sorbet (both are too refined), Granita has more of a granular texture made up of ice crystals that roughly cling together. It can be thought of as a Snow Cone - but only in concept - the actual product is much more than that.
Granitas flavors are only as finite as one’s imagination. Over the years I have prepared variations as simple as Watermelon, and as sophisticated as Port Macerated Cherry. As far as I am concerned, they can be made of just about any fruit!
To achieve the light and “airy” texture of a Granita, it is best to puree your fruit of choice, and strain it through several folds of cheesecloth, if the consistency is too thick, you just need the juice after all. Of course, if you are lucky enough to own a traditional juicer, which separates the juice from the pulp, that would be perfect! In the following recipe, for Watermelon Granita, the flesh is pulverized in a food processor so no straining is needed.
If your fruit needs a bit of sweetening, I suggest preparing a Simple Syrup, and adding an amount to your liking: https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/simple-syrup
Unlike most frozen concoctions to be made at home, Granita needs no special equipment, at least none that you most likely have already:
You Will Need:
1 A metal baking dish (Cake pan? Meatloaf pan?), which freeze much more quickly than glass or ceramic
2. A good, strong fork
Aside from the ingredients, that’s it!
Time: 3 hours, Serves: 4
4-5 cups of cubed watermelon, seeds removed
1 tbs of lime juice
¼ of simple syrup, or to taste
HOW TO PREPARE
Add Watermelon Cubes to food processor, in batches, and puree until completely smooth. If any seeds remain, strain them now. Add simple syrup and lime juice, stir to blend. Pour into metal baking pan(s) about halfway full. Place pan(s) in freezer, resting completely flat.
Every thirty minutes, or so, from one end or side of pan to another break up frozen formations. Continue doing so until a crunchy “gravelly” consistency is achieved. When finished, it may be covered tightly with plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to two days. “Refresh” before serving by raking with fork again. Spoon into serving dishes (perhaps a martini glass?) and garnish with a mint sprig.