Water Ice Is A Breeze To Freeze

Posted: August 23, 1989

For most of us, the ready availability of high-quality ice creams and sherbets has all but killed the practice of making frozen desserts at home. And no wonder. Ice-cream machines, though increasingly easy to operate, take time and call for ingredients that most of us don't typically have on hand. But one frozen dessert requires no mechanics, unusual ingredients or elaborate preparations. Water ice is a snap.

Nothing more than sugar and liquid frozen to slush, water ices are made quickly and are ready for eating in a few hours, using nothing more elaborate than a shallow dish placed in a freezer. The flavor can be as plain or esoteric as your taste. Orange, cranberry, lemon or grapefruit juice make simple, full-flavored ices that the whole family can enjoy. Leftover coffee, perfumed teas, or tomato juice spiked with red-pepper sauce create ices geared more toward an adult palate, especially ones with an added jolt of liquor.

Be warned, however, that liquor-based ices take longer to freeze and tend to never form solid crystals. That's because the freezing point of alcohol is much lower than that of water. But this seeming hazard becomes an asset when the ice is stored.

One of the drawbacks of water ice, as opposed to ice cream or sherbet, is that in time it will freeze solid, and once this happens, its slushy texture is ruined. A small amount of alcohol retards the freezing, keeping the ice scoopable for several hours.

Even if the ice should solidify, it is not a total loss. A crystalline consistency can be recaptured by slicing the solid ice into cubes and then chopping them in a food processor or blender. Within seconds the ice will be crushed and ready to eat. Do not process too long, though, or in large batches, for there is only a fleeting moment between crushed ice and a melted pool.

The first recipe below uses the problem of over-freezing to its advantage. It contains an unflavored mixture that is frozen solid, then crushed with fruit juice. By having the frozen mixture on hand, differently flavored water ices can be made instantly at any time.

FRUIT-FLAVORED WATER ICE

1 cup Simple Syrup, cooled (recipe below)

3/4 cup water

Pinch salt

1 cup fruit juice

Mix the syrup and water together with the salt. Turn into a shallow pan, and freeze until ice crystals begin forming around the edge of the pan, about an hour. Stir the crystals into the liquid mixture. Freeze another half-hour and stir again. Continue to freeze until the mixture is solid, about three hours.

Break the ice into small pieces, and process with the fruit juice in a blender or food processor for a few seconds before serving. Serve in chilled glasses, garnished with a sprig of celery leaves, if desired. Makes four servings.

SIMPLE SYRUP

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan, whisk the water and sugar together until the sugar is moistened. Bring to a boil without stirring. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Makes about one cup. Use as directed in other recipes.

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Granita is the Italian word for water ice. This one can take the place of coffee on a sultry evening and is also a great midday pick-me-up.

ESPRESSO GRANITA

3 cups brewed or instant espresso

6 curls lemon rind

In a small saucepan, combine the espresso with the sugar, and stir until the sugar is fully moistened. Without stirring, bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

When cool, pour into a shallow pan and set in a freezer. In an hour, ice crystals will begin to form around the edges of the pan. Stir them into the more liquid portions. Continue to freeze, stirring the frozen portions into the liquid every half-hour until the whole mixture is a firm slush. This will take about three hours.

If it should freeze solid, break into small pieces, and crush in a food processor or blender. Serve in chilled espresso cups, garnished with the curls of lemon rind. Makes four to six servings.

The "cloud" in Grapefruit Cloud refers to the egg whites, which give this water ice a fine texture and an almost fluffy feeling on the tongue.

GRAPEFRUIT CLOUD

2 cups grapefruit juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 cups Simple Syrup, cooled (recipe above)

4 egg whites

Combine the grapefruit and lemon juices with the Simple Syrup. In a separate bowl, beat the salt and egg whites together until they become very frothy. Stir into the juice mixture, and pour into a shallow pan.

Freeze until ice crystals start to form around the edge of the pan. This will take about an hour. Stir the crystals into the liquid mixture. Freeze a half-hour more and stir again. Continue to freeze, and stir every half-hour until the mixture is a mass of fluffy slush. The process will take about three hours.

Should the mixture freeze hard, break it into small pieces and process in a blender or food processor for a few seconds before serving.

Serve in chilled glasses, garnished with a sprig of celery leaves if desired. Makes four servings.

This is a great warm-weather appetizer or palate-cleanser. It is not sweet, but the small amount of syrup in it makes the fruit of the tomato come alive. It's spectacular.

SPICY TOMATO WATER ICE

3 cups spicy tomato juice

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup Simple Syrup, cooled (recipe above)

Combine the tomato juice, lime juice and Simple Syrup.

Turn the mixture into a shallow pan, and freeze until ice crystals start to form around the edge of the pan. This will take about an hour. Stir the crystals into the liquid mixture. Freeze another half-hour, and stir again. Continue to freeze and stir every half-hour until mixture is slushy. The process will take about three hours.

As gentle folk of the old South have long known, this is a great way to make it through a lazy afternoon.

MINT JULEP SLUSH

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves

1 3/4 cup boiling water

1 cup Simple Syrup, cooled (recipe above)

1 1/4 cups bourbon

4 to 6 mint sprigs

Steep the mint leaves in the boiling water until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Add the Simple Syrup and the bourbon. Stir to blend.

Turn the mixture into a shallow pan, and freeze until ice crystals start to form around the edge of the pan. This will take about an hour. Stir the crystals into the liquid mixture. Freeze another hour, and stir again. Continue to freeze for three more hours, stirring the mixture two or three times during that time. When the mixture is slushy, it is ready to serve.

Should the mixture freeze hard, break it into small pieces and process in a blender or food processor for a few seconds before serving. Serve in chilled glasses garnished with sprigs of mint. Makes four servings.

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