Flavored ice to help you beat the summer heat! Italian ice is a sweet treat made from sugar, water, or ice and natural or artificial flavorings. These natural flavorings may include fruit concentrates, juices or purees, which can blend well to the mixture. This liquid mixture will then go through a freezing process while being constantly mixed to achieve the desired texture.
The Italian ice is greatly inspired by the granita siciliana. This is an Italian semi-frozen dessert made from water, sugar, and flavorings that originated from Sicily.
- The Italian ice was said to be invented in 1915 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Caterina Di Cosmo tried to recreate the granitas from her hometown in Italy. Her first batch was flavored with sugar and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, though it came out smoother than the granular or coarser It became such a big hit after she served it to her family, friends and the regular customers of her small grocery that her husband built a small shack next to their house dedicated to making and selling this Italian ice.
- Salt-brining is a process used by the Di Cosmos in making their product. The mixture is poured into a stainless-steel sleeve inside a wooden barrel, filled with ice and rock salt. The salt helps lower the freezing point of the ice so the final product maintains its ideal temperature.
- Another variation of Italian ice in the U.S. is the water ice, as it is called in Philadelphia. But this is a smoother, slushy-like texture versus the Italian Ice.
Italian ice, and even water ice, stores have sprouted all over the country, making it easier for people to satisfy their cravings, especially during the summer season.
It is different from shaved ice, as the Italian ice is made by combining all the ingredients and then freezing it. While for shaved ice, the ice cubes or blocks are shaved into fine shards, and then the flavors and toppings are added.
Production & Farming in Texas
Big Italian ice names have also established stores in Texas, but local sellers have also taken the icy plunge. Italian ice may not have originated from this area, Texans have also come to embrace it, making authentic and homemade versions with so many flavor options that the buyers will surely love.
Preservatives, Additives, and Chemicals
Since Italian ice uses basic ingredients, namely, water or ice, sugar, and flavoring, it is easy to monitor if not-so wholesome ingredients have made it into the list. Many stores take pride in their all-natural products, using real fruit extracts or purees and natural sweeteners. However, others may use sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and flavorings, as well as stabilizers, especially for the pre-made store-bought variations.
- Guar Gum – This is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive in processed foods and can be derived from legumes called guar beans. It is used to thicken and bind food products, as it is soluble and can absorb water. The FDA recognizes this as safe for consumption in specific amounts. It has said to have some benefits like improving digestive health and decrease blood sugar and blood cholesterol, however, it may also trigger an allergic reaction, or cause gas and bloating.
- Citric acid – This is commonly found in citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, and the likes. However, there is also a manufactured form that is used as a food additive and can also be found in cleaning agents and nutritional supplements. This manufactured citric acid is used to preserve the ingredients, to boost acidity in its contents, and to enhance the flavor. This is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
- Artificial Flavors – these are flavorings added in our food that is not extracted from organic sources such as plants or animals. These are usually present in processed foods and snacks. But while others do not recommend taking in food with anything artificial, there are no reported significant health risks associated with taking in these artificial flavors.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – The HFCS is an artificial sugar that is made from corn syrup. Commercial producers of products usually use this, as the HFCS is a cheaper substitute to natural sweeteners. But overconsumption of items with this ingredient can be linked to several serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, and heart disease.
- Maltodextrin – a polysaccharide that is commonly added to packaged foods to improve its flavor, thickness, and shelf life. This white powdery substance is derived from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat, however, it is highly processed, using acids or enzymes. Maltodextrin is considered by the US FDA to be a safe food additive and is counted in the total carbohydrate count in the food’s nutritional value. There are warnings that the maltodextrin may have a high glycemic index and might pose an issue for those with diabetes. But this substance is usually present in small amounts in food and therefore won’t have that much significant effect if taken moderately.
Italian ice, or water ice, are usually served in clear glasses or in clear plastic cups, which show the colorful confection inside. Colorful plastic and paper cups, as well as bowls, are also commonly used.
For those sold at the supermarkets or takeaway options, some are sold in tubs and boxes.
Nothing beats a cup of Italian ice during the hottest days of the year! But enjoying this sweet and refreshing confection need not be limited to the warm season, it is also a great hangout snack with friends and family. Another purpose for the Italian ice is to use it as a palate cleanser during meal courses! Something cool and tasty, to prepare you for more yummies!
Italian ice is best kept in the freezer. It is also recommended that when scooping from a tub of Italian ice, make sure that there are no dripping or wet scoops or condensation on the lid to ensure that water will not be added back to the tub. Excess water will form ice drops on the product. Wax paper may also be placed on top of the product before closing the lid, serving as a seal to keep it from developing freezer burn.
Homemade Italian Ice
You need not leave the comforts of your home just for a cup of Italian ice! Prepare the simple list of ingredients and follow this recipe from The Food Network!
- 3 cups halved strawberries or chopped pineapple
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 cups of ice
- Using a blender or food processor, blend the fruit, sugar, honey, lemon juice with 2 cups of ice until the mixture becomes chunky. Add another cup of ice and blend until the mixture is completely smooth.
- Transfer the mixture into a shallow baking dish and freeze for about 30 minutes. Scrape the ice using a fork until it becomes slushy.
- Freeze it again until firm, for about 2 hours.
- Scoop into cups.