Red Raspberry Granita.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The heat is on outside. The freezer is already running in the kitchen. Make that combination work for you by making granita.

Granita is a semi-frozen Italian (Sicilian, if you want to be provincial) mixture of water, sugar and flavorings – fruits, vegetables, juices, booze, herbs and spices. Yes, that closely resembles the ingredient list for some sorbets. But since granita requires only a fork to stir up the flavored liquid as it freezes, it is more like flaky ice than a creamy sorbet that’s been churned in an ice cream machine to add air.

Use up fruits and beverages you have on hand to make granita. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Making granita is simple: the liquid (or liquified fruit if you’re using a strained fruit puree) ingredients are poured into a cold-reactive pan and placed in the freezer. Every half-hour or so, run the tines of a fork through the solidifying mixture to break up the ice crystals. Once the ice crystals begin to hold their shape after about two hours, pack the granita into a container and keep it in the freezer for six months. But I promise you, good granita is gone well before that point.

Granita is a great use of ingredients you have on hand – a half-eaten watermelon; a quarter bottle of rose; the two grapefruit rolling around in the crisper; bolting herbs in the window box; dried chilies or flavored sugars in the cupboard; or flat ginger ale in the fridge. And granitas help re-purpose some of the water already drawn from the tap for other summer kitchen projects like boiling beets, canning fruit or making iced coffee or tea.

Some chemistry is involved to ensure the finished product is neither unstructured mush nor a block of solid ice. According to food scientist Harold McGee, to make the ice flake simple, sugar (equal parts sugar and water heated until the former melts) must comprise at least 20 percent of the total liquid going into the freezer. So for every cup of liquid you want to freeze as granita, you must add 1/4 cup of simple syrup. And since alcohol doesn’t freeze until the air around it hits minus-150 degrees, you must not add too much of it in your granita. Wine is only 8-14 percent alcohol, so it can comprise more than half of the liquid going into the granita. But hard alcohol is between 40 and 50 percent alcohol, so should be limited to a quarter of the total amount of liquid going into the granita.

Beyond those proportions, anything goes. Given the late July heat wave, I’ve been experimenting with granita combinations for weeks. My favorites (thus far, at least) are red raspberry rose; watermelon, lime and chile (the hot pepper was infused into the simple syrup); and grapefruit, gin and rosemary (the herb also infused into the simple syrup). Give granita a go and let me know what combinations work to keep you deliciously cool.


Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at:

Red Raspberry, Rose and Rose Granita

I’ve been drinking roses all summer. The good ones get drunk to the last drop, but should I mistakenly get one that doesn’t please me, I’ll sweeten the deal with simple syrup that has spent time steeping with dried (culinary-grade) rose petals and a few mushy raspberries. This recipe also works well with strawberries.

Serve 4 as a light dessert

1 quart fresh red raspberries


1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons rose petals

1 cup rose wine

Sort through raspberries, selecting 1/4 cup of the mushiest ones to set aside. Divide the remaining berries among four dessert dishes.

Combine the sugar with ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar melts. Remove from heat, stir in reserved mushy berries and the rose petals. Let steep until cool and strain. Compost the solids.

Combine the cooled syrup with the wine. Pour the mixture into a shallow metal pan. Every half-hour or so, use the tines of a fork to stir icy portions into the middle of the pan. The granita will be ready to serve after about 90 minutes in the freezer.

Just before serving, scoop granita into the bowls of berries and serve immediately.

The red raspberry granita. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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