New York Italian Ice Recipe

New York Italian Ice Recipe


Posted 2023-06-28 by T. A. Rosefollow

Not quite a sorbet, nor a granita , made from yet not classified as slush, the Italian ice is a unique dessert requiring time to make and hot weather for consumption. In Europe and North America is summertime, yet this recipe takes after the New York variety. There is a very slim chance living in Australia that I would hear of this dish, however, thanks to the comedic genius of the sitcom Seinfeld, and the internet coverage of this recipe, I have been able to make a recipe and discussion about the best way to make this water ice dessert. Popular during summer or in hot weather mainly due to its light composition - as it is dairy free, it also cleanses the palate, just like sorbet.

For ingredients, I used lemon juice and sugar and my recipe is about water rather than fresh fruit but fruit puree can be adapted. Using lemon juice and sugar is done to avoid wasting money yet it promotes practising the freezing process. It also tastes satisfying and looks proper. But the benefit of using lemon squeeze and sugar is one can learn the dish thriftily and then make it with fresh lemon juice and zest or pineapple juice like in the classic Seinfeld episode where Kramer tries to serve the pineapple variety to a shocked Bette Midler (see below). Note that Bette Midler worked at a Hawaiian pineapple cannery prior to achieving fame.

For the lemon juice recipe, you will need an ice-cold lemon syrup. I made mine from a tenth of a cup of lemon squeeze and a quarter of a cup of sugar, dissolved in boiling water, cooled with ice cubes and topped with chilled water. As stated it is better with fresh lemon juice yet other juices are fine. It also helps to chill a metal tray beforehand. Getting one full coffee cup of Italian ice can be achieved with a cup full of liquid, poured into the metal tray. In my case, I used a loaf tin which I thought helped due to being deeper and accidentally limiting me to one cup at a time which is healthier.

Like all iced desserts, they are nice when not fully frozen, especially if one has sensitive teeth, and, freezing the dessert completely can make it difficult to melt and re-form into slush. One needs to ensure adequate time, check every 45 minutes till slushy - stirring with a fork and slowly but surely if stirred for every 30 minutes thereafter will become water ice. It does potentially freeze over, so it doesn't keep well, but, good texture can be achieved. If there are two weak points of the dish, it is the fact it's moreish, yet bad for the teeth, and a low serving temperature encourages fast consumption, which cools the mouth almost too much. Stirring the dish regularly quite interestingly suits home study/work because it encourages getting up for a very quick break. Adjusting sugar quantities is possible - part of 'practice makes perfect' in this thrifty dish. Note that the unique name of Italian ice reflects the uniquely New York approach to water ice - due to New York's large Italian community.

To summarise - add liquid to a metal tray/container/dish, freeze, check every 45 minutes for one and a half hours and then every half hour till desired texture is achieved, Should take a total of three to four hours. Mashing with a fork carefully is fine and helps blend, as the mixture at the sides is more frozen compared to the middle. It helps to aim at mashing it to a fine consistency, especially as Italian ice is supposed to be finer than granita. Using bottled juice is okay but doesn't taste as wholesome as fresh juice/puree.

I made a second tray and that seemed to go against my recommendations/summary because it got forgotten about and checked about an hour later. While a bit frozen over, it was soft enough to mash with a fork, and refreeze, so that entire process yielded an even better/stiffer/finer water ice in half the time as the first one. Looking at the photos below, they're a sign that homemade granita is easier to make than Italian ice (they look more like granitas), and practice does help achieve finer ices, hence the article/author's choice of cheap sugar and lemon squeeze for a bit of practice. Be aware that too much consumption is bad for teeth - despite lower yet enticing serving temperatures compared to ice cream. While the photographed water ices are coarse, they stack well and overall should be improved and made finer with practice.

Strangely enough water ices are non-existent in Australia, for Australian readers it's likely a bit eerie but all the more reason to at least try making one or two cups and see if it is any good. Admittedly they are refreshing and low on cholesterol, I think blending/beating towards the end of the process makes them finer and closer to gelato/sorbet consistency. There are clearly different paths to success so using cheap juices for developing a sense of this recipe seems important, plus forgetting can freeze it too much so plenty of practice with cheap yet tasty fruit juices and syrups makes sense.

In the article's final photo is true lemon Italian ice, because it's blended to a finer consistency. All photographed versions are palatable, it's just electronic blending makes the homemade version more authentic - as Italian ice is known for its fine and almost creamy consistency - yet with no dairy or egg added. Comparing the second last with the last photo is like comparing 'a snowball' with a fine lemon gelato, at least in terms of fineness/consistency. In Italy, there are major differences in consistency which reflect differences between towns/regions, whereas New York Italian ices are supposed to be extremely fine.

Pictures and links below, courtesy of author in 2023.

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A recipe with real fruit by

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220983 - 2023-06-30 10:34:10


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