Granitas and sorbets both perfectly encapsulate summer. Ice cream has its own hallowed place, of course, but the refreshing juxtaposition of fruit, sugar and ice is hard to trump in the summer months. Ice alone has a long and storied history, well before modern refrigeration (3,000 years-plus), of providing cool relief.
Granita is believed to have originated in Sicily during Roman times, when blocks of ice were transported from Mount Aetna. Granita is more granular than sorbet, and can be made very simply by freezing a mixture of pureed fruit, sugar and water in a shallow pan. As the mixture freezes, it is removed every so often and mixed with a large fork to granulate the ice crystals. This is done just enough to create a uniformly granular ice – neither too firm or too slushy. In Italy, coffee and almond are popular granita flavors and the combination of the two is often enjoyed in the morning as an alternative to regular coffee.
Sorbet is a finer-textured concoction, with equivalents in virtually every cuisine, from sorbetto in Italy to sherbet in the U.S. The name is actually a derivative of an Arab term for ‘drink’ or ‘beverage’ – the origins of sorbet, however, are fuzzy. Many trace the lineage from the Chinese, to the Persians and Arabs, and then to Europe. In any case, it gets its fine texture from constant churning while freezing (unlike granita). Some recipes call for adding egg whites at the end of churning for an even silkier finish.
Start thinking about your own ideas for refreshing summer sorbets and granitas. Perhaps a peach and basil sorbet? Or a mint and lime granita? Plan to be refreshed!