The Sicilian granita is a traditional dessert of the island, famous all over the world for its unique taste and texture. Even today, savouring a granita in Sicily represents a sort of ritual, the convivial moment par excellence, in which no calories or diets are a problem. It is the queen of summer breakfasts that finds its perfect pairing together with the warm brioche con il tuppo.
It is a cold, coarse-grained mixture with a more granular and crystalline consistency, different from sorbet, which is instead a fine-grained mixture.
The history of the Sicilian granita dates back to very ancient times. In fact, according to the tradition, in Sicily since the Middle Ages, there were the nivaroli men who collected snow on Mount Etna, the Peloritani, the Iblei and the Nebrodi and stored it throughout the year in some caves to then transport it to the seaside locations. Wealthy families bought the snow from Etna and stored it in special private snow houses. The snow was then ‘grated’ and used to make sorbets and ice cream. This type of process then gave the granita its first name as rattata (grated). As time passes, it was discovered that snow could be used together with sea salt as an expedient for cooling. The collected snow thus went from being an ingredient to becoming a coolant.
This is when the “pozzetto” was born: a wooden vat with a zinc bucket inside, which could be turned with a crank. The salt and snow were enclosed in a jute sack and pressed to create a mixture capable of freezing the contents of the sump. The rotary motion of a few paddles inside prevented the formation of large ice crystals. The knowing rattata turned into the granita as we know it today: the snow was replaced by water, the honey by sugar and the wooden vat by the ice-cream maker.
Today, there are Sicilian granitas for every taste: from the classic lemon, almond, strawberry, coffee and pistachio, to the more unusual kiwi, melon and prickly pear.
The Sicilian granita is an important part of Sicilian gastronomic culture, not only as a summer dessert, but also as a symbol of conviviality and friendship. It is a unique taste experience and an excellent choice for cooling off during hot summer days.