Prep Time: 25 minutes + 1 hour standing time + freezing time
I’m in the weirdest pickle: I can’t find my beloved ice cream machine! A friend gave it to me 20 years ago and even though it’s a simple Sunbeam model that you load with ice and rock salt, it was the neatest, most efficient, most easy-to-store electric appliance ever. Ice cream makers today usually have canisters that need to be pre-frozen, so the only way to make ice cream at the last minute is to have that thing constantly at the ready. Well, I can’t sacrifice space to store one full-time in my compact freezer. So I’m making granita rather than ice cream. You don’t need a machine to do this– you just freeze the sweetened fruit base in a baking pan then rake it into granules with a fork (hey! granita and granule must have the same Latin root…). And that I can make room for, especially when it’s cherry season.
2 pounds sweet cherries, preferably Bing
1/4 cup sugar
grated zest and juice of 1/2 large orange
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup water
Pit the cherries; if you have a cherry pitter, be sure to do this in a large bowl set in the sink or your shirt and your counter will be covered in cherry juice. If you don’t have a pitter, use a paring knife to cut the cherries in half and pull out the pits. Combine the cherries with the sugar, orange zest, orange juice, almond extract, and salt in the large bowl. Stir well, then set aside for 1 hour to macerate.
While the cherries stand, clear a place in your freezer to fit the dish you are going to freeze this in, such as a glass 9×13-inch baking or storage dish.
Put the macerated cherry mixture and water in a blender and puree. Pour into a flat, shallow, freezer-safe container that is large enough that the mixture is not more than one inch deep. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the freezer. When the mixture begins to get icy (about 1 hour), stir, breaking up the ice crystals with a fork. Return to the freezer. Repeat this step two more times, then let mixture freeze solid for at least 3 hours or up to a day. Once frozen, scrape the surface of the mixture with the tines of a fork to create ice crystals. Scoop up the crystals to serve. Granita will last in freezer for about 5 days.