Italian ice is a widely popular, refreshing and delicious summer treat. It's also known as slush and originates from the Sicilian treat known as "granita." The dessert is typically shaved ice blended with a flavor and frozen. Some recipes simply pour flavored syrup over plain crushed ice. Both types are now typically known as Italian ice.
Italian ice is made by mixing finely shaved ice with various flavorings. Depending on the brand, the shaved ice can be very fine or coarse. The flavoring is usually comprised of a sugar syrup mixed with a a flavor. The Sno Cone, an ice cream truck staple, is made with a coarser shaved ice and is striped with three different flavorings - blue raspberry, lemon, and cherry. Popular brands of shaved ice are Richie's Slush, Little Jimmy's Italian Ice, and Rita's Water Ice, among many others. Each franchise has their own unique combination of flavors, with the most well-known being the standard watermelon, lemon and blue raspberry.
Preparing the Ice
In order to begin making your Italian ice, you must first grind the ice to your desired consistency. You can use as much or as little ice as you like for this step, depending on how much Italian ice you want to make. Five pounds of crushed ice (the ice of about six ice trays) will make about 10-12 servings of Italian ice mixture. You can shave the ice by putting a little bit at a time in a food processor or blender and grinding until the ice reaches the desired consistency. Next, divide the ice into smaller dishes or put it into one big serving dish, depending on how you would like to serve your treat. The website hawaiianshavedice.com sells various flavored syrups, paper cones and ice shaving machines that you can use at home.
Flavoring the Italian Ice
Once you have the ice prepared, you can flavor it however you would like. You can use fruit juices, such as orange or grape, and just pour them over the slushy ice to flavor it. You can also use flavored syrups which are typically available at your supermarket. A recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis on foodnetwork.com suggests using Torani brand raspberry syrup. You can also make your own fruit syrups by combining sugar and fresh fruit and boiling them into a syrup. Use 3/4 of sugar for every pint and a half of fresh fruit. Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from the heat, cool, and strain. Then pour your homemade syrup over your ice and enjoy!
Granita is the true form of Italian ice; the original from which all other forms followed. Making granita is just as simple as making the Italian ice recipe described above. There are many terrific and delicious granita recipes on foodnetwork.com as well. This one is from Alton Brown and is for cranberry granita.
Alton Brown's Cranberry Granita
* 2 cups water * 5 1/2 ounces cranberries, approximately 1 1/2 cups, washed and sorted * 3/4 cup granulated sugar * 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
Place the water, cranberries and sugar into a small saucepan, set over medium-high heat and simmer until the berries begin to pop, approximately 7 minutes. Remove from the heat. Puree with a stick blender, blender or food processor, for 1 minute. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer directly into a metal 13 by 9-inch pan. Do not press on the skins. Simply allow the juice to drip through the strainer. Add the zest and stir to combine. Place in the freezer until set, at least 6 hours and up to overnight. Once frozen, scrape the mixture with a fork to create a shaved ice texture. Serve immediately.