Italian ice has a long and often-debated history. Many people enjoy this tasty treat during the summer, while others enjoy it year-round, stocking their freezers with their favorite flavors. Italian ice is served in a variety of ways and appeals to numerous people around the world.

Facts

Italian ice, also known as "granita" in Italian and "sorbet" in French, is a cool and refreshing alternative to ice cream. Although it does share some similarities with ice cream, the main difference between the two is that Italian ice does not contain any dairy products. The basic ingredients used to make Italian ice are water, pure sugar cane and the desired flavoring.

History

The true origin and history of Italian ice is unclear. Many cultures have been considered to be the true originators of Italian ice, including the Arabs, the Sicilians, the Europeans, the Turkish, the Chinese, the French and the Spanish. It is believed that Italian ice came about accidentally due to someone leaving Sarbat, a syrupy fruit drink, on ice for too long.

Geography

Due to its name, Italian ice may appear to be most popular in Italy. In actuality, Italian ice is an international delight enjoyed by many people. Depending on the region of the world, the locally preferred flavors and textures may change, but the general preparation and ingredients remain the same.

Types

Italian ice comes in a variety of textures and flavors. Some of the most common variations are the traditional Italian ice, granita, sorbet and snow cones. According to an article published in the "Yale Daily News" on Sept. 9, 2005, sorbet has a smoother texture than traditional Italian ice, because it is whipped without air. Traditional Italian ice has the same crunchy texture as a snow cone. The main difference between the two is that Italian ice flavors are blended uniformly into the ice, while snow cone flavorings are poured directly on top of it. Granita is also very similar to the traditional Italian ice, but it has more of a granular texture. Italian ice is available in numerous flavors, such as lemon, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, pineapple, champagne and raspberry.

Function

Italian ice serves a variety of functions. It can be used to cleanse the palate between meals, to provide cool and refreshing relief during hot and humid weather and to serve as a light and tasty dessert.