My birthday falls just after the Fourth of July, which means that I grew up with a generous amount of fanfare around my birthday, all of which I assumed was meant just for me. In addition to a pool party with my friends, my grandma would make me my very own blueberry mountain pie. This pie, a cake batter poured on top of pints of fresh blueberries, was her specialty. When served hot with cold vanilla ice cream, it is still my favorite dessert to serve on my birthday, a true family favorite.
The story goes that my Aunt Jinx served a mountain pie to my great grandmother, Sybil, while Jinx was living in Tennessee. The recipe made such an impact that Sybil brought it home and it spread like wildfire through the family. By the time I came along years later it was a family staple. It occurred to me recently that a mountain pie is the very (very) close cousin of the sonker, a Western North Carolina (Surry and Wilkes counties to be specific) specialty.
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What makes a sonker lovely is the combination of bubbling fresh fruit (or sweet potatoes) and cakey topping. The sonker variation I grew up with calls for the topping to be poured into the blueberries, allowing the cake to bubble up and through as it bakes. In other variations, a thicker dough is rolled out and made into a lattice top, similar to a traditional cobbler. Others call for top and bottom layers of dough, edging closer and closer into "pie" territory. No matter the type of crust the effect is still the same: browned and bubbling fruit, sweet and tart, with a topping toasted to the perfect shade of brown.
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