La Scirubetta Calabrese: Ancient Snow Cone

La scirubetta calabrese is a time-honored winter tradition in the toe of the boot, and like much of the area’s rustic cuisine, its preparation couldn’t be simpler.

  1. Wait for snow to start falling.
  2. Go outside and collect the freshest flakes in a pot (from the rooftop tiles is an excellent spot) and bring it into the house.
  3. Scoop the freshly gathered snow into a small bowl or glass.
  4. Drizzle it with the liquid of your choice and stir.
  5. Enjoy!

Here in Badolato, I am told the traditional way calls for mosto cotto — cooked wine must. Other common flavorings include honey (fig-flavored especially) or cooked fig syrup. More recently, folks have been adding sugar with orange or lemon juice (both winter fruits common throughout the region), coffee, liquor, or chocolate cream.

No bright blue artificial coloring or flavoring here . . . and voilà!

The purest snow cone imaginable. Literally.

La scirubetta calabrese with fig honey by @egidio_painter on Twitter (used with permission)

La scirubetta calabrese with fig honey by @egidio_painter on Twitter (used with permission)

The name of this poor man’s gelato is said to derive from the Arabic “sharbat,” which is chilled drink made from fruit or flower petals. A student of Calabrian history knows that parts of this region was heavily influenced by Arabs during the mid-Middle Ages, so this just may be when la scirubetta became a wintertime treat here as well — or at least when the name was adopted.

Adding honey to snow for a delicious brain freeze, though, dates back thousands of years in places like China, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.

Neve dolce neve? Snow sweet snow! Awwww…..

La scirubetta (shee-roo-BET-tah) isn’t the only interesting use of snow around these parts either. I am told it was also common for folks in the Sila, Serre, and Aspromonte mountains to dig profound holes, fill them with snow, and then cover them with straw. These natural refrigerators could then be used as cold storage even into the summer — but even better for the kiddos especially, the blocks of ice that formed sottoterra could also be used for la scirubetta as described above.

How’s that for recycling and reusing?

I’ve (sadly) have yet to enjoy la sciurebetta as we rarely get snow here in the village, but I’m sure I’d be partial to the coffee flavoring.

How would you flavor your scirubetta?


Italy Blogging RoundtableThis is my contribution for the November 2016 Italy Blogging Roundtable‘s topic of WINTER.

I was busy working on a novel for NaNoWriMo during that month — and I “won,” having written 50,000 words in what will be the first in a cozy mystery series featuring American lawyer-turned-B&B owner Dahlia D’Amato, set in a rural southern Italian village. The first book is tentatively titled Rustic Revenge, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted! Needless to say, I didn’t get a chance to do a blog post for the Roundtable in November.

BUT meglio tardi che mai (better late than never) — and now you can catch up with the rest of the WINTER Roundtable posts too. Hurry, while it’s still wintertime!

12 Beans of Wisdom to “La Scirubetta Calabrese: Ancient Snow Cone”
  1. 01.03.2017

    Wow, I’ve only read about the scirubetta, but haven’t ever tried it. And you’re right, it looks a whole lot better than the “slurpee.” The fig and honey sounds good to me.

    michelle Reply:

    They say it’s supposed to be cold by the end of this week…my fingers are firmly crossed for SNOW 🙂

  2. 01.04.2017

    Growing up in New England, we would put maple syrup on snow for a snow cone. 🙂

    Dmitri Reply:

    Growing up in Montreal, we did the same thing, maple syrup and walnuts.

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds great!

  3. 01.04.2017

    Kahlua with a little coffee, shame on me but it sounds good. Paulette

    michelle Reply:

    YES. Love Kahlua……

  4. 01.05.2017

    Great Post!
    This is what Italian cuisine is all about: Simplicity!
    The recipe itself is as old as this world, but still tastes great 🙂 We have so many hills and mountains and they are all covered in deep white snow throughout winter, so especially for those who like hiking or snow sports it’s the perfect time to have some fresh Scirubetta or Sorbet from the peaks of Italian mountains.
    The Arabs in ancient times used honey boiled with rose water, dates, citrus juices and nuts to flavor their ice cones, Romans used fructum or cotto (reduced red wine boiled with chunks of lead) to give the ice sweet fruity flavor. A very light and fresh dessert still extremely popular today, great substitude for dairy ice cream.

    michelle Reply:

    I think I’ll skip the lead, but otherwise YUM 🙂

  5. Shannon Esposito

    Growing up in Maryland, USA We collected fresh snow and added fresh vanilla bean extract and a little sugar. Fun to see the different versions.

    michelle Reply:

    Mmmm I’m a big vanilla fan. Sounds great!

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



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