It’s June 30, 2012, and yesterday here in Atlanta the temperature broke 106º. It was so hot, the weather forecasters warned anyone with respiratory issues, all seniors and small children to stay inside with air-conditioning.
So begins the dog days of summer.
I remember as a kid living in Brooklyn during the hot summer months; the tar in the streets would become so soft, we were able to scoop enough of it up to fill our bottle caps to make shooters to play skelly.
What is skelly you ask? Simply a game where you draw a game-board with chalk on the street and go through a series of boxes to the center box, all the time trying to keep your opponent from beating you. You would use your fingers to shoot your bottle cap in the correct order through a series of boxes. Each time an opponent came too close, you would try to knock them out of the game.
We’d spend hours in the hot sun playing this game, handball, kickball, stickball, stoopball, hide-and-seek, Johnny on the pony and other city games. Back then when we were kids, the heat didn’t bother us as it does now that we’re adults. I guess having fun outweighed everything.
It’s days like this when it’s so hot, the only thing that will cool you down is a nice cup of lemon Italian ices. For my money, the best Italian ices were from Alba’s on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and Ralph’s on Staten Island.
My sister-in-law Carol lived off of 18th Avenue; she may still be there. When we lived on Staten Island, we’d drive across the Verrazano Bridge to bring my mother-in-law to visit Carol and we’d stop at Alba’s to get Italian pastry and ices. I especially loved their strawberry ices because there were chunks of fresh strawberries in it. Alba’s made everything from scratch with the freshest ingredients.
When not venturing over to Brooklyn, we’d go to the original Ralph’s Italian Ices, which was across the street from my favorite pizzeria on Staten Island, Denino’s. We would take my sons to Denino’s for pizza, and when we were finished, we’d walk across the street and stand on the longest line you could imagine just for a cup of the best lemon-flavored Italian ices ever! Joe and Andrew liked chocolate, but to me the lemon ices were the most refreshing.
Ahhh, the memories!
So, to cool you down, I offer you a quick and easy lemon Italian ices recipe. Enjoy
1 cup of sugar
3 cups of water
3/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Zest from a lemon
In a saucepot, bring the water to a boil.
Slowly stir in the sugar to dissolve.
Remove the pot from the stove.
Add the lemon juice and zest.
Stir to ensure all is mixed well.
Transfer the mixture to a square metal cake pan and place in the freezer.
After an hour, take the pan out of the freezer and with a fork, scrape the mixture from the center to the outer part of the pan.
Place it back in the freezer and then take it out again in another hour to repeat the scraping process.
Make sure the mixture has a more powdery texture; you don’t want it to become a block of lemon-ice.
It should be ready to enjoy after 2 1/2 hours.
I think I’ll go make it now!