The Fall equinox may not be until September 22nd this year but for most folks, the arrival of Labor Day weekend ushers in a new school year, new schedules, and new weather reflecting the end of the carefree fun days of Summer. For those of us in the PacNW, this summer has been amazing and while we’ve had to suffer through a week of record heat, the waning days of August have handed us cool nights/mornings with clearing by midday and warm sun sun sun. The quintessential Seattle summer that we brag to visitors about and secretly pray for to make up for the coming days of socked-in damp and gloom.
With Labor Day weekend upon us but still lovely weather, I offer up some experimentation in both the kitchen and bar for those of us with BBQ love and fruity fun still on the brain. And while Vanilla Ice might still be trying to explain the difference in beat between his one-hit wonder and the true original classic of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” I don’t think anyone should mind my own mixology of two fine granita recipes, both taken with a grain of salt to find not a recipe but a process for icy, fruity goodness.
The Granita Process: Pure and Simple
Several Cups of Fruity Syrup – Use any juice or flavored non-alcoholic beverage you want, flattened, heated a bit to mix as much more sugar as you like. If your liquid is a juice of some sort, be sparing with additional sugar unless you’ve got quite the sweet tooth.
- Cool – Depending on your pan of preparation, this could take 5 – 25 minutes or so. Just remember this pan will go into the freezer so must be freezer (and expanding) safe.
- Flavor – Lemon zest is a nice punch, but “brandied” dried fruit works nicely too. Don’t forget your spice cabinet too for interesting flavors. Think cocktails, just frozen.
- Ice – Depending on your proof and your patience, but here’s a general rule. The more alcohol, the longer it will take to crystallize. If you want to speed it up, add finely crushed ice before putting it into the freezer.
- Scrape – Regardless if you’ve added ice to speed it up, scraping is essential to keep things well mixed and get that granita texture. Check it every few hours and give it a scrape.
- Serve – This granita melts quickly so think of iced glasses or some other method to let those crystals sustain. This needs to go as quickly from freezer to mouth so be creative. (Although, if it melts, it’s just a straight up cocktail.) Enjoy!
Stop reading here and go make some or read on for how it all came together.
The Kitchen of Mis-Invention – Granitas
Hard alcohol beverages won’t freeze in your home freezer due to the lower freezing point of ethanol and the higher proof (percentage of alcohol) of vodka, rum, etc. Which is why a friend had me keep a bottle of Absolut Mandarin in my freezer for, I don’t know, years? It’s nice to just be able to pour ice cold goodness into a glass with a twist of lemon. So the thought of slushy alcoholic goodness should be equally intriguing. And depending on how proof you want to make your granita, it can be quicker than you think.
The first recipe I surfed up on the Interweb was from Loulies.com for a Lemon Vodka martini granita. This one was truly intended to be high proof and take some time to set. Because the proof is so high, the recipe calls for crushed ice to help the crystallization process along. The other recipe from Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis is for Cranberry Granita and is equally simple, but requires a bit more time to crystallize by using the more traditional method of scraping to build up crystals.
So me, being both impatient and not afraid to tinker, decided to blend the methods a bit. Both recipes call for simple syrup. This is just a highly sugary liquid of some sort. Giada’s calls for cranberry juice while the Loulie’s calls for just water. I liked Giada’s idea of not passing up the opportunity to add flavor with the liquid, opting to use Italian flavored sodas, the kind that seem to be all vogue in markets nowadays. Safeway’s organics brand offers flavors like pomegranate, lemon, and the one I choose, blood orange. Combining the soda with sugar over heat jettisoned the carbonation in no time flat and required seconds on the heat.
I poured two batches into microwaveable/dishwasher safe plastic containers to cool. No, not traditional and likely prolonging the cooling effort unlike glass or metal trays that would
conduct heat better so keep that in mind when you tinker. I had to keep in mind the configuration of my side by side freezer and later portability. As the liquid cooled, I started grating…lemons, that is. A friend had leftovers from her fan-tabulous BBQ and offered them up to my kitchen of mis-invention. My zester, missing in packing action, was replaced by a micro-planar grater in a way that would make Alton Brown, food science-tologist and anti-unitasker, very proud. (After all, my kitchen of mis-invention owes much to many episodes sitting in the class of Alton’s geek Good-ness, absorbing, absorbing, absorbing.)
So I added my zest and then got spices: Crystallized ginger to be exact. Then I made the big difference between the batches: ze alcohol. In honor of my friend of lemons and BBQ fun, I made 1 batch with Absolut Citron and a swig of Triple Sec. For my taste, I hulu’d back to tropical lands and added Pineapple/Coconut Rum and still a swing of Triple Sec to the other batch. So combined, I squeezed the juice from the zested lemons into both batches and stirred generously. I then put both batches into the freezer to ICE!
A couple of hours later, I checked and besides chillin’, no crystals were forming so I decided to help things along with 1 cup of crushed ice in both containers. Checking back later, that had done the trick and I proceeded to scrape and toss a couple of times. By morning, things were icy fragrant goodness and following a good base for lunch, I took both batches for a test run.
Ker-POW! Both batches were quite boozy (more than 8 oz) so no wonder they needed the help. But it solved the serving problem…Cocktail Granita melts into a lovely, tasty drink!
Hmm, Kitchen of Mis-Invention chooses you, Midori and Watermelon, for her next attack!