It seems like in every movie set in Italy, one of the characters will end up being seduced by one of those famous Italian delectable frozen treats: a granita or gelato. In “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the character that Diane Lane plays runs into a blonde bombshell walking along a cobblestone market street, consuming a gelato as if she were making love to one of those muscular hunky descendants of Roman gods.
Unlike gelato, granitas are semi-frozen desserts made from sugar, water, and various natural flavorings, usually without cream. According to Wikipedia, granitas originated in Sicily and have a coarser, more crystalline texture. Food writer Jeffery Steingarten says that “the desired texture seems to vary from city to city” on the island; on the west coast and in Palermo, it is at its chunkiest, and in the east it is nearly as smooth as sorbet. This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties are frozen with occasional scraping to produced shaved, separated crystals.
On a hot summer day, there’s nothing more satisfying than diving into a scoop of icy granita. And if you have an ice-cream maker they’re simple to make, and the lack of cream means that they’ll freeze quickly. And on a hot summer day, there’s nothing more quenching than watermelon or cantaloupe.
In Oregon, we count the days until the watermelon and cantaloupe start arriving from Hermiston.
Hermiston’s melons and cantaloupes have an unusually high sugar content, due to the hot days and cool nights early in the growing season along the high desert near the Columbia River. Also, the sandy volcanic soil has the perfect loam content.
You may be able to grow bigger melons in Texas, but you’ll never grow more tasty ones than those that come from Hermiston.
Hermiston Watermelon and Cantaloupe Granita
- 1 cup (240 ml.) sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml.) water
- 8 cups (1.9 l) diced Hermiston watermelon or cantaloupe
- Juice from half a lime
- Make simple syrup by melting the sugar in the water by slowly heating the water in small saucepan and stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
- Put diced watermelon or cantaloupe in a blender and add the simple syrup and lime juice and blend until melon is completely liquefied.
- Place the mixture in the ice-cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions.
- The juice should freeze in about an hour and your granita is ready to enjoy. To store, place in a plastic tub and freeze. Because it has no cream, the granita will freeze solid if you leave it in the freezer for more than a day, so you’ll want to enjoy this tasty treat quickly. Once frozen, you’ll need to let the granita thaw for about 15 minutes before scraping with a metal ice cream scooper to break up the ice crystals.