As kids, we spent our summers cooling off with those lemon Italian ice cups from the frozen aisle. They were such a welcome, refreshing treat after a long, hot day of romping around the neighborhood — even more so than ice cream, thanks to their icy, almost creamy slush. This lemonade granita is like the grown-up version of those little cups, but it brings back those sunny childhood memories all the same. It’s also shockingly easy to whip up: if you can make a pitcher of lemonade, you can make this granita.
To start, we make a sweet base by dissolving sugar in water on the stovetop (just to speed things up). Then, we infuse the mixture with a few fistfuls of lemon zest — four lemons’ worth, to be exact. Once cooled, it gets an extra dose of zing with a cup of fresh lemon juice and a splash of lemon extract before hitting the freezer. We stir it every now and again to break up any big, chunky crystals and leave it in the icebox just until it’s barely semifreddo, so the texture is perfectly slushy with delicate, little flakes that instantly melt on your tongue.
We love how delightfully sweet-tart it turns out. The super fresh, super lemony flavor amid all that icy coolness is the perfect foil to our blisteringly hot, SoCal afternoons. We also love it because it’s such a fun summer treat to make with the kiddos. From squeezing the lemons to pouring the mix into the pan and stirring it, there’s not much prep work those small hands can’t do.
Our tip: Don’t let a lack of lemon extract stop you from making this granita. It certainly turns up the dial on that lemony flavor, but omitting it won’t detract from the end result.
Zest from 4 large lemons
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups water
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon extract
With a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in long, thin pieces. Then, juice the lemons.
In a small heavy saucepan, heat the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Stir in the zest and transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool. Chill the syrup in the refrigerator, covered, until cold, about 45 minutes.
Once the mixture is cold, discard the zest and stir in the lemon juice and lemon extract.
Freeze the mixture in a 9x13” glass baking pan, stirring every 30 minutes to remove ice crystals from the sides of the pan, for 3 or 4 hours, or until the liquid has become granular but is still slightly slushy.
Pour the granita into 4 coupe glasses and serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from: Epicurious