On a hot summer day, few things are more refreshing than a slice of cool, fresh watermelon. In fact, one of the only things more refreshing than the melon itself is a generous serving of homemade Watermelon Granita! Granita is a semi-frozen dessert made by freezing a mixture of water, sugar and flavoring (usually fruit puree or fruit juice) and stirring as it freezes to created a crystalline, slightly chunky mixture. The result is somewhere between sorbet and shaved ice, and it is a terrific way to turn fresh fruit into a summer dessert.
This Watermelon Granita starts with fresh watermelon, and plenty of it. The melon is pureed with a little bit of lime juice, some sugar and a pinch of salt. The lime and salt help to boost the natural flavor of the watermelon. The sugar is added both to enhance the sweetness of the melon – because frozen foods like ice cream and granita often taste less sweet because they are so cold – and to enrich the texture of the granita and make it creamier.
Once everything comes together into a smooth puree – and this can be done easily in a food processor or a blender – the mixture can be poured into shallow dish and placed into the freezer. I stir my granitas every 20-30 minutes as they freeze, to spread out the ice crystals as they form. This helps aerate the granita so that it is easier to scrape and serve. If you don’t mind putting a little elbow grease into your scraping, you can allow the mixture to freeze solid, then use a sharp spoon to scrape the granita into crystals when you’re ready to serve it. It will depend on your freezer and how deep your dish is, but it typically takes about two or three hours or so to freeze the granita.
You’re going to get the best results from this recipe if you start with a really good melon, of course, but turning an average melon into granita is a fabulous way to improve it. If your melon is on the bland side when you start, add an extra pinch of salt or a few extra tablespoonfuls of sugar. Serve this dessert at the end of any summer meal! You can also top it with a shot of rum or splash of champagne to turn it into a summery cocktail!
8 cups watermelon, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend at high speed until very smooth.
Pour into a flat, shallow dish (such as a pyrex baking dish ) and place the dish flat in the freezer.
Stir granita once every 20-30 minutes to evenly distribute the ice crystals. When granita is almost entirely frozen, about 2-3 hours, it is ready to be scraped out with a large spoon into serving dishes.
Granita can also be stored in the freezer, covered, for at least a week if you want to make it in advance.