It may never occur to me to read a recipe before putting ingredients together in a bowl, although I am getting pretty inventive when pulling the elements from one recipe and incorporating them into another in order to make things work. The peach pie I made somewhat haphazardly over the summer was quite tasty even if I didn’t know what I was doing. The same can be said for this weekend’s blackberry sonker.
(This is my apologetic way of admitting that I have yet to fulfill a complete recipe from Ashley English’s book A Year of Pies. I am always discovering too late that I’m out of buttermilk or vegetable shortening – or common sense to have checked up on such things – and I end up scrambling through my other cookbooks to find a useful recipe that eliminates the one ingredient I don’t have. So far, I’ve been lucky in this regard thanks to a splendid arsenal of cookbooks.)
There are three parts to this dessert: the filling, the biscuit topping, and the vanilla sonker dip. But first, butter a 10-inch skillet (or a 9-inch pie pan) and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- 16 oz of blackberries (peaches or raspberries work, too!)
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/8 cup of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Mix all these ingredients in one medium-size bowl until the berries are coated. Cover with a cloth and set aside while you make your biscuit topping. If you prefer more filling (my husband said he would), increase your fruit to 27 ounces and double the rest of the ingredients for the filling recipe.
Biscuit grunt topping:
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons of chilled butter
- 1 tablespoon of chilled vegetable shortening
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup milk (the recipe called for whole, I used 2% – worked just fine)
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add butter and shortening and mix with hands until mixture is mealy. Add the egg and milk and stir until a soft (but still wet) dough forms.
Vanilla sonker dip:
- 2 cups of whole milk (again, I used 2%)
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Heat the milk over medium heat until it is gently boiling. Whisk in the sugar and cornstarch, then add vanilla until mixture is blended and smooth. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Pour the dip into a separate container and set aside while the sonker bakes.
Putting this thing together is simple – pour the blackberry filling into the buttered skillet and top it with dollops of biscuits. Bake for 25 minutes or until the biscuits begin to brown. Serve with a hefty helping of vanilla sonker dip.
There is a history to this dish, depending on where you’re from. Where I’m from, this would be considered a cobbler. The word sonker is very specific to a region in North Carolina and the dessert is usually accompanied by a custard-like sauce or dip. (The blackberry filling recipe came from a sonker recipe.) The word grunt is what this dessert is called in New England where Colonists used to cook this over a stove and the berries made a “grunting” sound while they stewed. (The biscuit recipe, which called for no buttermilk and was my saving grace, came from a grunt recipe.) Both desserts rely on seasonal fruits and I even came across a recipe for a sweet potato sonker, which is awesome because Thanksgiving isn’t too far away!
What do you call this dessert where you’re from?