· By Chamoy City Limits
New Orleans Snowballs
New Orleans snowballs are a beloved frozen treat that has a rich history in the city's culinary traditions. Here's a brief history of New Orleans snowballs:
The origins of the snowball can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where people would flavor snow or ice with various syrups and fruit juices. The concept of shaved ice treats made its way across different cultures and eventually found its way to the United States.
In the 19th century, ice became more accessible due to advancements in refrigeration technology. Ice houses began to appear in cities, including New Orleans, where ice was stored and sold to the public. This availability of ice opened up new possibilities for frozen treats.
In the early 20th century, Italian immigrants who settled in New Orleans brought with them their expertise in making frozen desserts. They introduced the concept of "granita," a traditional Italian treat made by freezing fruit-flavored syrup and scraping it into a fluffy texture.
As the Italian community grew in New Orleans, so did the popularity of granitas. However, the term "granita" eventually evolved into "sno-ball" or "snowball." The exact reason for this name change is unclear, but it's believed to be a result of the local pronunciation of "granita" or a natural linguistic adaptation.
In the 1930s and 1940s, snowball stands began to appear throughout New Orleans, particularly in neighborhoods with high Italian populations. These stands were often family-run businesses and served as gathering places for the community.
Traditionally, snowballs were made by shaving a block of ice using a hand-cranked ice-shaving machine. The resulting ice flakes were then piled into a paper or foam cup, and various flavored syrups were poured over the top. Popular flavors included strawberry, cherry, grape, and spearmint, among others. Some vendors even created their own unique syrup combinations.
Over the years, snowball machines have evolved, with many now using motorized ice shavers to create a finely shaved ice texture. Additionally, a wider variety of flavors and toppings, such as condensed milk, fruit purees, and even cream-based syrups, have been introduced to enhance the snowball experience.
New Orleans snowballs have become an iconic summer treat in the city, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. They are particularly popular during the hot and humid months, providing a refreshing and sweet respite from the heat.
Today, numerous snowball stands can be found throughout New Orleans, each with its own loyal following and unique flavor offerings. The tradition of enjoying a snowball on a hot summer day remains deeply ingrained in the city's culture and continues to be cherished by residents and visitors alike.