Granitas are a perfect way to use up ripe, in-season fruit and make a refreshing dessert.
I bought a golden honeydew at the grocery store, but didn’t get around to cutting it up and eating it until it was so ripe that it wouldn’t last long after being cut up. I settled on making a granita, an Italian ice-based flavored dessert that has varying consistencies across Italy.
I searched through David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop (one of the best frozen dessert recipe books out there) and came across this recipe for a melon granita. Perfect.
In general, granitas are made with fruit pureed with sugar and water. You can make one with nearly any fruit. Some people even make them from strong coffee and sugar. Use this recipe as a base and generalize.
- 1 melon (honeydew, cantaloupe, or golden honeydew will work)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
- Pinch of salt
Cut the melon in half, remove the seeds, cut into slices, and remove the outer peel and rind. Put the melon and the rest of the ingredients in the blender until completely smooth.
Pour this mixture into a large, flat baking dish, or any large dish to maximize the surface area of the liquid, and put it in the freezer. (Make sure you have a flat space to set it!) After an hour, break up the large chunks of ice with a fork and mix it in, then put it back in the freezer. Start checking and breaking up the ice again every 30 minutes until you reach a consistency you like. If it freezes too hard, leave it out on the counter for a bit and mix it back up again.
Serve it in a glass or small bowl with whipped cream, or simply eat plain, as pictured above.
This was delicious and lasted us for a while. I’m going to experiment with more granitas in the future. Here are some ideas:
- Adding alcohol
- Watermelon and mint
- Campari and orange
- Champagne and some fruit (blackberries, raspberries, or, as David Lebovitz recommends, black currants?)
Most maraschino cherries are bright red, sickly sweet, and drowning in red dye and corn syrup. Not something you want to put in your cocktails. Luxardo cherries are another story, but they are pretty expensive as far as garnishes go. Since cherries are in season right now, I thought I’d pick some up and make enough maraschino cherries to last until this time next year (or to give out as host gifts with a bottle of rye around the holidays…)
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
- 3/4 cup raw sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 stick cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1.5 lbs pitted cherries
- 1 cup amaretto, Luxardo, brandy, or dark rum. See note below in #3.
- 4 clean 16oz jars and lids
- Pit the cherries.
You can pit cherries with a straw, cherry pitter, icing tip, or a funnel. I opted for using a funnel and pitting them from the side, as I wanted to keep the stem. You can remove the stem if you want, but I think they look a lot better in a cocktail with the stem. This takes about 20 minutes, so put on an episode of 99% Invisible and get pitting. You could leave them whole, but they wouldn’t soak up as much alcohol and syrup.
- Cook down 1/2 lb of the cherries with the raw sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg over medium heat until the cherries are mushy. Let cool slightly and strain the juice/syrup into a separate container. Discard the cherry mush and cinnamon stick.
- Mix this syrup with the cup of liqueur you chose to use. I used amaretto and I’m pleased with the flavor it gave the final product. Traditionally, maraschino cherries are made with Luxardo maraschino liqueur, but amaretto, brandy, and dark rum are good substitutes.
- Fill the four 16oz jars with pitted cherries, then pour the hot syrup/alcohol mixture over the cherries up to the fill line.
- Wipe off the rims of the jars, screw on the lids, and process them in a water bath for 10 minutes for long-term storage, or keep them in the refrigerator if you plan on using them within a month.
The cherries turned out wonderfully for me. They are great in an Old Fashioned or a French 75. I had a couple Old Fashioneds this week with mine:
I recommend letting these cherries sit in the jar for at least a week before you crack it open and start using them. Enjoy!
UPDATE – June 9, 2016
These cherries age very well. They firm up, darken, and retain their flavor. Here they are a year later:
Simple syrup is a staple of cocktails, an essential sweetener that helps balance out drinks. Syrup is easier to mix into drinks because it is already in a liquid form. Sugar doesn’t dissolve well into alcohol, but dissolves relatively easily in water. (That’s why you’ll find bars that use a sugar cube in an Old Fashioned putting a few drops of water in the glass before muddling the cube.)
Besides for cocktails, I also use it to sweeten my iced coffee. Here’s two ways to make it:
- Hot Water Method
There are two common formulas for simple syrup: 2:1 sugar to water and 1:1 sugar to water. 2:1 is the standard. To make this, slowly heat 1 cup of water and two cups of sugar in a saucepan and stir until all the sugar is dissolved (no need to boil it). If you are using white sugar, the syrup should be clear. Let it cool and store it in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge. It should last a few weeks.Variations: If you prefer the 1:1 ratio for thinner syrup, only use one cup of sugar instead of two. Try using different kinds of sugar to get different flavors. Plain white sugar works fine, but dark brown sugar, turbinado, and others create interesting results that you’ll want to try out in your cocktails.
- Studio Neat Simple Syrup Kit
The fine folks at Studio Neat make an easy-to-use Simple Syrup kit that makes the process even easier. Fill the water and sugar up to the correct lines, shake, and let the sugar dissolve. I don’t have one, but this video makes it look pretty cool and easy.
If you are interested in flavoring your simple syrups, you only add few more steps to the process: Cook down your fresh fruit or spices with the sugar and water, let it cool, then strain before bottling.
I’ve made plum, pomegranate, and mint flavored syrups in the past year, and my friend Katie Rose over at Imprecise Mix made a prickly pear syrup that I want to try. Making flavored syrups is a great way to use up ripe fruit before it goes bad, and a good way to add interesting flavors to your cocktails. Pomegranate seems to work well with the juniper and lime flavors in a gin & tonic, and plum syrup works well in a gin fizz.