In Surry County, N.C., visitors explore the Yadkin Valley by following their sweet tooth. The Surry Sonker Trail includes eight eateries that serve the county’s signature cobbler-like dessert.
Sonker, which consists of cooked fruit and a crust, is made only in Surry County. Some sonkers have a liquid batter poured on top of the fruit, others have a rolled-dough crust, and others are prepared on the stove with a dropped-dumpling crust. Each recipe depends upon family tradition.
Frugal home cooks developed sonker in the early 1800s to avoid wasting overripe fruit. Traditional sonker fillings include strawberries, blackberries, peaches, blueberries, apples, and sweet potatoes.
“It’s so nice to be a part of a small town with a heritage that everyone cares about,” said Marla Stern, chef and owner of Southern On Main in Elkin. “It’s nice to participate in the culture and traditions and be a part of keeping them alive.”
A family tradition of picking and canning blueberries led to Stern’s primary sonker flavor at Southern On Main. She bakes it in the oven and serves it warm with a scoop of ice cream.
A variety of ingredients
At The Living Room Coffeehouse and Winebar in Pilot Mountain, sonker becomes a canvas for creative interpretation. Past experiments include a s’mores sonker and ginger pear sonker.
“That’s the really cool thing about the trail — the different places you go have their own feel, atmosphere, and style of sonker,” said Scott Needham, owner of The Living Room. “We try to promote local food at The Living Room, and sonker is a local dish itself that we use to showcase other locally grown products.”
In downtown Mount Airy, visitors find traditional sonker at Down Home Restaurant. The owners grew up in the area making sonker with family recipes. They cook the fruit on the stove, transfer it to a pan, add a liquid-batter crust, and bake it.
A block down the street, Angela Shur, of Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies, makes sonker with fresh peaches from her orchard. She tops it with a moonshine glaze to create a boozy version she calls “zonker.”
Additional stops along the Surry Sonker Trail include Old North State Winery in Mount Airy, Rockford General Store in Dobson, Roxxi and Lulu’s Bakery in Elkin, and Putters Patio and Grill in Dobson.
The annual Sonker Festival takes place in Mount Airy the first Saturday in October.
Sonker Trail: sonkertrail.org
Yadkin Valley Tourism: yadkinvalleync.com
Festivals celebrate harvest, ‘Mayberry’ in Mount Airy
What began more than 50 years ago as a celebration of the tobacco and apple harvest has grown into one of the finest fall festivals in the Southeast. The Autumn Leaves Festival brings old-time, bluegrass, and gospel music to Mount Airy’s downtown stage, Oct. 13–15.
More than 200 artists and craftsmen line the streets to sell their handmade wares.
Community organizations serve barbecue, ham biscuits, collard greens, cornbread, and Amish doughnuts. These elements, plus a backdrop of vibrant fall foliage, combine for three days of Americana in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge foothills.
Mount Airy celebrates its television fame as the birthplace of actor Andy Griffith and the real-life “Mayberry” with the Mayberry Days Festival, Sept. 19–24. Fans of the television series come for special events and appearances and lots of fun.