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Saturday, 14 July 2018 23:25

Granita: Sicilian passion

Written by Giuseppe Marco Badami

granita_e_brioche Aperfect dessert for the torrid days of the Sicilian summer, whether you are on the beach or you dedicate yourself to the visit of the beauties of our island. Good and refreshing, the granita is part of the local folklore.





What is it?

Granita is a cold spoon dessert, typical of Sicilian cuisine. It is a semi-frozen liquid compound prepared with water, sugar and the chosen flavor. In preparation it is important that the chilling takes place gradually and keeping the mixture moving, so that the water does not separate in the form of ice crystals insipid with sweetened aroma.


A classic lemon-flavored granita.



The matrix of the granita, like most of the recipes of Sicilian cuisine, is Arabic. Just the Arabs invented the sherbet (sorbet), ancestor of ice cream, granita and, indeed, the sorbet. It was born as a poor food, from the snow that abounded on Mount Etna, the Nebrodi, the Peloritani or the Iblei. Behind there is a centuries-old tradition and fascinating and distant figures like the nivaroli. The recipe is ancient (we speak of the Middle Ages) and initially the granita was produced from the snow collected on Etna or other Sicilian mountains (Nebrodi, Peloritani or Iblei), which the nivaroli accumulated in wells and transported from the mountains to the valley on wagons covered with straw. The snow was stowed in special "niviere" in stone inside natural caves. In this way it was transformed into ice and during the summer it was harvested, scraped away from the surface of the slabs formed, and added to honey, fruit, syrups or flowers, to give rise to the ancestor of modern granite.


Traditional "nivaroli" on the Etna volcano.



Simple ingredients (water, sugar, aroma) but well dosed, ensure that the granita is a gourmet delicacy and increasingly sought after. Although it is widespread throughout the island, the primacy belongs to the eastern part of Sicily, Messina and Catania in the first place. Among the most common are: the pistachio of Bronte in the Catania area, the typical coffee granita of Messina, then the lemon, the mulberry, the chocolate, the almonds, the cinnamon, the peach, the strawberry, the tangerine, all 'pineapple. Be careful with liquid granita because, simply, it is not granita! Its worthy companion instead is the "brioche with tuppo", a soft sweet bread with a rounded shape and a half sphere on the top.


A traditional Messina coffee flavored granita, accompanied by the ever-present brioche with tuppo.



In Acireale, the festival “Nivarata” is held dedicated to "the ritual of Sicilian Granita". The festival, which takes its name from the nivaroli, has hosted gelato makers from different parts of Sicily, but not only: it has opened the doors to Italian and foreign ice cream makers, who make the public taste special granitas, created specifically for the event. The granitas in competition during the days of the festival, which takes place annually between May and June, are in fact tasted and judged by the public and by a quality technical jury made up of famous names in the sector.


Example of "niviera" in which snow was stowed.


Life is like a granita: if you can not drink it, use a spoon.
[cit. Linda Reeves]


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