Watermelon Granita

Do you know what one of the greatest things is about summer? If you answered watermelon, you are correct! (If you said the beach, ice cream, mojitos, or the smell of sunblock, you would also be correct in other circumstances.) I love watermelon, and I find it ridiculous to pay twice as much for a pre-cut one just because I have no use for a full-sized melon. Plus, my neighbor Millie (the adorable octogenarian who, the other day, called me to see what channel MTV was so she could watch the Jersey Shore premiere) taught me a trick for finding the best melons.

Look for ones with lots of little holes in them (see pic below). She taught me that the sweetest melons were the ones that all the bees went after, so they might look a bit rough from all the stings, but it’s a surefire way to know you’d gotten a good one.

Now that I have the trick of the trade, I have no excuse not to buy whole melons.
I had seen these super easy recipes all over the interwebs at some point, so I decided to search for one and see if it was as simple as I’d remembered. They’re all basically the same, but I’m linking to this one from the food network. A granita is just like shave ice, or almost a snow cone, and a fantastic way to take care of 1/4 of your melon right off the bat. Not only that, but the recipe doesn’t have many ingredients, so you’re still getting your fresh watermelon taste. The prep/freezing time is over the course of hours, but if you’re working from home like me, it’s easy enough to set an alarm reminder to check on it.

I decided to get a little creative with this granita – so I’ll give you the original recipe as well as my little additions. The main difference is that I didn’t add sugar like the recipe called for because I’m supposed to stay away from sugar. I subbed in a little bit of agave nectar instead – far less than the amount of sugar needed. It’s definitely a matter of taste in this case – but the watermelon was sweet enough on it’s own that I didn’t miss it. But how about this, let me just give you the recipe and you can decide for yourself how to make it!

WATERMELON GRANITA – Serves 4

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon (about 1 lb of watermelon – 1/4 of an average-sized melon cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used about 1 Tbsp agave – didn’t want mine too sweet)
  • Juice of one lemon  (lots of recipes say lemon or lime)
  • Optional – 1 tsp fresh basil or mint, about 3 good-sized leaves (I got a nifty new basil plant, so that’s why I added it)

First, you’ll need to cut up your melon! I cut it in half, and then the half into quarters (4 pieces). Turns out this was way too much, but I didn’t know it at the time. I only needed to use 1/4 of the entire melon – like in the picture below. 

Cut the melon into chunks. I find it easiest to slice it into sections while still in the rind, then cut it out all at once, almost peeling it from the rind. Hopefully the picture below will make more sense than what I just wrote.

Add the chunks to a food processor. Here’s where I failed to heed the warning on my processor – there is a max liquid fill line for a reason. I processed the melon before adding in the lemon, agave and basil, hoping it would incorporate more easily once the melon was liquified.

I didn’t realize that all those chunks would equal liquid of a much greater volume than the recommended fill. Oh, and when I say “recommended,” I don’t mean it’s a friendly request. Experience shows me that the watermelon juice will start leaking out all over your counter, starting from the hole where the blade sits, and you won’t even notice until you see the giant puddle forming. No pix, sorry, because I was too busy cleaning.

Again, didn’t realize I had way more melon than I needed. To remedy my flood – I scooped out the liquid that was above the fill line, putting it in another bowl, before adding in my agave, lemon and basil. I just added it back in before the freezing process later, so my granita might have been more “watermeloned down,” if you will.

So once you have your puree ready, pour it into a metal baking pan. I used a 9×13″ cake pan. You could probably use an 8″ square if you don’t accidentally make as much as I did.

Pop the tin into your freezer and set a timer for an hour. When the hour is up, take it out of the freezer and rake the mixture with a fork. You’ll see that it’s now a slushy texture, but you rake it so it doesn’t set as a giant watermelon ice cube. After you’ve raked it all, put it back in the freezer for another hour. (picture below is post-rake)

After the second hour, take it out and rake again. You’ll see now that the mixture is a little more dry and crystallized-looking than before. Same deal – rake it into small flakes. When I found larger chunks, I found it was easier to turn them over (flat side up), and kind of stab at it as if the fork were an ice pick. Put it back in the freezer for one more hour.

When you take it out of the freezer after the final hour, you’ll see it looks even dryer still, and that means it’s almost ready. Rake it a final time to break up any huge chunks that may have formed, then it’s ready. (It’s fine to leave some larger chunks, those are the funnest to eat.)

Serve it up in bowls and garnish with basil or mint leaves if you choose. The process is a bit time consuming, and I’ll admit I forgot to set an alarm for one of the steps and it was harder to rake, but so be it. It’s a delicious and refreshing treat, and keeps in the freezer for 3 days so you can enjoy it for the rest of the week.  I know that this is, yet again, a super long post for an easy and uncomplicated recipe, but thanks for bearing with me. You’ll be glad to have this in your recipe book for these dog days of summer, and now you won’t make the silly mistakes I did!

I hope you enjoy this light and lovely watermelon treat like I did!

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