North Carolina Sonker

NC Sonker


What in the world is a sonker ?  If the word sonker doesn’t ring a bell,

you probably have never visited North Carolina and if you have, you didn’t ask for dessert. A  saucer of sonker with milk dip sure hits the spot after a big plate of southern fried chicken, creamed potatoes and slaw with sweet tea.  A sonker  has  been and is still called by various names such as cobbler, tart, pie, torte, grunt, slump, buckle, crisp. But if you want a delicious cobbler in North Carolina, you want to order the sonker on the dessert menu. All the recipes use fresh  berries and even sweet potato cooked in their juices .  Whatever fresh ingredients are readily at hand is mixed with sugar , some cornstarch and butter and then the dough is made to cover it . They are all homemade and simple to make.  The difference between a sonker and a cobbler is the way you blend the fruit and unshaped dough,  mixed into the juices of the berries.  Cobblers have pastry, sonkers use dough.

A sonker is a deep-dish pie, juicier than cobbler. It is a dessert large enough to feed a big family It was often baked in a bread pan that ft inside a wood-burning stove.  I cook mine in a deep cast iron pan that bakes in the oven. My recipe calls for  pouring a batter made of flour, sugar, and milk on top to bubble up between the fruit.

And then there is the “dip,” a sweet, thickened milk flavored with vanilla extract or spices, such as cinnamon or allspice. It is   served  on top of the sonker.   

Recently I had a hankering for some sonker and dip  and decided to try the recipe with frozen blueberries instead of fresh. Served with the dip and a scoop of ice cream, there were no leftovers.  It is a simple , fast and tasty recipe. 

The sonker is so delicious that North Carolina has a festival in its honor. As you know in Carolina, we celebrate every fruit and nut with a festival with Fourth of July in between..You will definitely find something fittin’ to eat.

If you happen to be in North Carolina the first week of October  , please make a trip to celebrate The Sonker Festival.  You will be guaranteed to find plenty of homecooked specialties.    

North Carolina Sonker
Best way of serving fresh berries and dough in a dessert
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  1. • 4 1/2 half-pints blackberries
  2. • 1 cup granulated sugar
  3. • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  4. • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  5. • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  3. • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  5. • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  6. • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  7. • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. • 2 cups whole milk
  2. • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  3. • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  4. • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 10-inch skillet or a 9-inch pie pan and set aside.
Prepare the filling
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a medium-size bowl. Stir until the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the berries are well-coated. Cover bowl with a kitchen cloth and set aside for 15 minutes.
Prepare the biscuit topping
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter cubes until the mixture is crumbly and the size of peas or smaller.
  3. Create a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the buttermilk, and using a large spoon, gently incorporate just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture will look quite wet at this point, but that’s fine.
Prepare the dip
  1. Heat the milk in a medium-seized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil.
  2. Whisk the sugar and starch in a small bowl to mix well, then add to the milk along with the vanilla extract, stirring until thoroughly blended and smooth.
  3. Reduce the heat under the saucepan to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture is reduced by half.
  4. Remove from the heat and transfer to a pourable container. Cover and set aside while the sonker bakes.
Assemble the sonker
  1. Place the blackberry mixture in the prepared skillet.
  2. Using a large spoon,dollop the surface of the blackberries with the biscuit topping, aiming for mounds of about 3 tablespoons of batter. You needn’t be terribly specific on the biscuit amounts; as long as the surface is dotted with reasonably similar biscuit mounds, you’re in good shape.
  3. Pour the melted butter over the biscuit topping and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking an additional 30 minutes.
  4. Cool at least 30 minutes, then, just before serving, drizzle each portion with several tablespoons of dip.
  1. Serves 8
Ms BeeBee

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