Sonker Summers

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I really hadn’t thought much about Sonker since my teenage years but an early morning walk few weeks ago brought the word back into my vocabulary once again.

Our walking group had converged on the North Wilkesboro Greenway trail and we had begun talking about miscellaneous things, ie… who was doing what over the next few days… Summer fruits seemed to be on the agenda for discussion and the term Sonker came up… chiefly the origin of the term. One of my friends never had heard of the term and begun to ask questions about it and how it was similar or different from a fruit Cobbler.

My input into the conversation…Sonker was a common summer dessert in my home growing up and I also remembered my Granny used the term often. Cobbler wasn’t the commonly used term to describe the fruit-filled pan of goodness at our house nor in my extended family households.

Sonker can be made with any type of fruit. We often had fresh blueberries or cherries at home during the summer months.

As we continued our walk and daily topics of discussion changed, I made a mental note to ask my mom about the Sonker recipe later and if she knew anything about the origin of the name.

A week or so elapsed in time before I recalled the Sonker conversation on the Greenway when I was talking on the phone with my mom one afternoon. She immediately answered my questions. She recalled an article that she had read in Our State Magazine about Sonker. She relayed key details from the article, and encouraged me to go read more about it. Mom discussed the differences between her version of Sonker and Granny’s. Granny usually had leftover fresh biscuit dough which she topped with fruit. Mom’s recipe, y’all will be able to find at the end of the blog post today.

Granny would take her leftover scraps of biscuit dough to top her Sonker.

FYI, Mom is fantastic with last minute supper guests…she can whip up an easy dessert effortlessly. My sister & I often challenged her to this task, with extra guests at the table. Sonker was one of those perfect, easy desserts… baking and bubbling in the oven while supper was being served. The aroma filled the kitchen with goodness waiting patiently for the final feature, dessert fruit-filled Sonker.

Blueberry Summer Sonker

For those of y’all who are still wondering what on earth is Sonker??? Sonker is a deep-dish fruit “pie”, usually served in a square/rectangular baking pan. Sonker is supposed to be “juicier” than a typical cobbler. Sonker can be a dessert large enough to feed a family or accommodate guests in your home. Sonker is NOT a “fussy” dessert. The ease of recipe is part of the charm of Sonker. On the other hand, cobblers, tend to have more of a thick biscuit texture to the breading and the texture on top appears to be “cobbled”. The dough is dropped or spooned onto the top of the fruit typically in a cobbler. The end result of a well baked Sonker, in my opinion, showcases your fruit, cobblers often showcase the beautiful breading.

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Have an abundance of fruit??? Make a Sonker and freeze the rest of your fruit for a special Sonker treat for later on in the winter months

Upon my Mom’s urging to further read & research, I also learned that Surry County hosts a Sonker Trail and a festival each October. Surry County even has a classic Sweet Potato Sonker with a creamy/milky type “dip” which is a finishing feature of the Sweet Potato Sonker.

Y’all still might be thinking …really, IS a Cobbler the same thing as Sonker??? In my opinion, these two are very “close first cousins.” Honestly, I simply prefer to use Sonker to describe my fruit-filled deep dish pies.

According to the research articles I have read, the term “Sonker”, was derived from a Scottish word meaning straw saddle. The Sonker experts tell us that they suspect that cooks used the analogy of the crust likeness of the fruit-filled pie to compare it to the Scottish word.

North Carolina settlers have connections to Scotland via the Great Wagon Road

Also, the Sonker experts believe that the term Sonker originated in Surry and Wilkes Counties. I suspect that if you aren’t a “native” to these two geographic areas NOR your parents, you may not know the term Sonker.

My husband had no clue what Sonker was all about, even though he has lived in Wilkes his entire life BUT his parents were not “natives” of Wilkes. Cobbler is the term he definitely prefers to use for the fruit-filled dessert.

My sister, on the other hand, a Wilkes County native, who now lives out of state, is teaching her young daughter to make Sonker… thereby keeping the legacy of our mom’s recipe going strong.

I would suspect the term Sonker is locale specific. My grandparents lived in both Surry & Wilkes Counties during their lifetime. So I believe they were well connected to the locale and it was reflective within their vocabulary and local food choices. Sonker was definitely a sweet part of summer during my younger years. I hope to continue my Sonker Summers by experimenting with my mom’s classic recipe and just simply enjoying the “fruits of my labor”.

Your personal preference of the term Sonker or Cobbler could be ingrained into your vocabulary mindset. But cobbler makers & lovers, I hope that you will add Sonker into your vocabulary AND into your food palate. Let’s keep our local food history alive and growing! Go experience Sonker this Summer.

Mom’s basic recipe for Sonker :

Ingredients & Utensils

-Square baking pan (this recipe is easily doubled or even cut in half in order to accommodate the number of people you wish to feed, for my 8-9 inch square baker I use 3/4 cup instead of full recipe)

-1 stick melted butter

-1 cup self rising flour

-1 cup milk – (I added a dash of vanilla to mine but it is not necessary)

-1 cup sugar

-Fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned… use what you have on hand)

Fresh blueberries, a staple of Sonker Summertime

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt butter in baking pan.

3. Mix together milk, sugar, flour and dash of vanilla (if desired) into bowl as butter melts.

4. Once butter is melted, pour milk /flour/sugar mixture over the butter into pan. Do not stir!

5. Add fruit on top of milk/flour/sugar mixture. The breading will disperse throughout the Sonker as it bakes. Sprinkle extra sugar on top of fruit for extra sweetness if desired.

Canned fruit typically has plenty of extra sweetness, so skip the sugar topping if desired.

6. Bake until crust is golden brown.

7. Note: You may want to let your Sonker cool down for 10 minutes before eating. No one wants to get burned eating a hot Sonker.

8. Sonker is goes well with vanilla ice cream, enjoy y’all.

I believe y’all can find a few different versions of Sonker recipes online… this one is definitely nostalgic to me and my favorite one.

The Wooden Rocker

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I realized a few weeks ago that I had never really vocalized the importance of the wooden rocker in our family. It has always been a central part of our 27 years of married life. I hope y’all enjoy the Wooden Rocker a little bit more each time you visit us. Happy reading & rocking y’all!

Many people who stop by to shop with us will often say, “oh my goodness, you are sitting in Harry’s chair! “ True, HG loved that rocking chair but did y’all realize that chair has not always been a fixture at Wilkes County Hardware???

I never really had vocalized the story behind the rocker until a few weeks ago when I was speaking to Carl White as he visited with us at the hardware store. The seed was then planted for a new blog post.

The rocking chair actually appeared at Wilkes County Hardware after we purchased the store. The wooden rocker was actually one of the first furniture purchases that we made as a young married couple at Gray Brothers Furniture. I rocked my son as a tiny baby to soothe him into blissful slumber in that same wooden rocking chair.

Here’s a snapshot of the same areas… 2015 on the left ( shortly after we purchased the hardware store) and a few years later in 2019. The rocking chairs were added into our store & at first the staff was unsure where they go “fit”. We always found a place for one more chair.
Harry’s rocking chair was carried upstairs to safety after the flooding incident in 2020.
Eric Brown & Keegan Watson both worked to repair the rocker. Keegan ultimately had to take it apart safely at his workshop and secure the back. We are blessed 💕
Here’s our son, Benjamin full circle… in the old wooden rocking chair… circa 2019 visiting with Skye.

The rocking chair carried memories of our home to our new business. One of the things we wanted to bring to our new existing business was a more “homey”, welcoming, hardware store experience. Over time, the locals and staff became accustomed to the wooden rocking chair. It was now a “fixture” and a new portion of our store legacy. Harry loved that chair but he also sat down wherever there was an empty spot. He was never picky about where he was going to dwell for his daily visit.

The rocker is also featured on one of our logo t-shirts. Thanks to Cooks for creating the amazing graphic from my heart and mind and ultimately bringing it to reality.

For those of you who may not have been blessed to know Harry, he was an amazing individual. Harry loved life, each and every day. Harry was a dear husband to his sweet wife, a great family man, and cared deeply for his surrounding community.

💕

Harry spent a lot of time with us at Wilkes County Hardware. He was our resident advisor, & he greeted all of our customers with a smile. Harry would sit and talk with those who would take time to sit down with him while he rocked in the rocking chair. Harry loved people, engaging conversations, and in general terms, living a simple life.

Harry gave Richard & I love each and every day. I know in my heart in the first year of ownership of Wilkes County Hardware, he gave Richard confidence to keep going, pressing on to do what needed to be done, changing the layout of the hardware store, & adjusting to running a small business. Harry was one of our biggest supporters and we are eternally grateful for his love and friendship.

In the second and third years of ownership, he became an honorary family member. He was never far from our minds or hearts. His sudden parting left a huge hole in our hearts.

The plaque of remembrance on the wooden rocker was a great and powerful way to honor such an amazing man who brought so much love, new hardware store life memories, and blessings upon us. His lasting impact on our lives are ever changed. We have wonderful friendships formed as a result of his influence. One person truly can make a difference in the lives of many people.

Thanks to Mark Cook for making this happen 💕

As Harry would say, S’agapo

Southern Summer… Making Homemade Ice Cream

Southern Summer Mornings

The summer season is here!!! The Dog Days of Summer are quickly approaching and this Southern Summer has already been hot! What summer cold treats do you offer to family and friends to cool down?? Homemade ice cream is definitely a Southern favorite.

The only thing that could make this hot summer day better is ice cream! 🍨🍨🍨🍨

Nothing seems to excite my family more than the treat of homemade ice cream. Homemade Ice cream just simply tastes like a southern summer at its best. Last year, I posted my favorite vanilla homemade ice cream on Pinterest and it has definitely been a hit!

As the July 4th holiday approaches, I thought it would be a great time to share this very simple recipe with y’all today. This recipe works well with my current ice cream maker. You can add fresh summer fruit into the mix or simply sprinkle across the top as a beautiful garnish.

Fresh peaches or strawberries are amazing with Homemade vanilla ice cream
Gather your ingredients…
I use whole milk
1 cup will give you a very sweet cream mix
Mix together all ingredients and make sure sugar is fully incorporated into milk/cream mixture. Pour into 2 quart ice cream maker.
I have one that is similar to the ice cream maker on the left. These are currently available for purchase at WCH!
Life is like ice cream, you need to enjoy it before it melts 🍨

Dog Stories

“The best therapist has four paws and fur.” Sometimes after the long, hard days all I need is the endless love of my sweet pups.

I believe in our entire married life, Richard & I have always had at least one dog. Most of them rescues.

The first house we purchased in North Wilkesboro, literally came with a dog! That was totally an unexpected surprise when we went to closing and the previous owners asked us to care for the neighbors dog that virtually lived at our new “soon to be home”. The seller was crushed that the neighbors were unwilling to sell the dog to him, hence the request to us. We could tell that the seller was very attached to the dog, so we agreed to care for the dog and keep him updated on the dog, which we all called Sugar Bear…our very first rescue pup. Sugar Bear quickly became a cherished pup. We all loved her dearly and she was a fantastic guard dog.

Sugar Bear loved to be inside as well as outside.
A pic of our first kitchen… Sugar Bear was terrified of thunder storms. She would try to crawl inside my bottom kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinets during a bad storm

Today is National Rescue Pup Day. Over the years, we have had the opportunity to bring a few special rescue pups home. The joy & memories of these furry friends still linger. Here’s a glimpse back into time to our “fur babies” that we loved dearly and a small portion of their rescue stories.

Elvis & Gigi were adopted at the same time. They were definitely a dynamic duo.
Elvis never missed the opportunity for a good costume change. He had a great personality and loved his people.
Elvis loved a good nap
Elvis loved to spend time with us at the hardware store sniffing out all the good things
Gigi was our little diva dog.
Gigi had a severe burn that was healing on her back when we brought her home.
Gigi loved photo time
Annabelle “Bella” came to us after losing an eye. Eventually she lost her other one too. Blind Basset Hound was a first for our family. Bella navigated our home effortlessly. She was amazing
Bella would smile when she was happy.
Naps and love… Bella was always ready for both .

Our current rescue pups…

Joy is a fireball of energy. She loves to play all day long. Joy was rescued with her brothers and sisters… nine total.
It’s all about bones & finding a good blanket
Joy is definitely a mom’s girl…
Cookie came to our house to live with us this January. She was found abandoned at a car wash in town. So hard to believe how much she has grown since this original photo
Thus sweet pup loves to be close to us, scouting the neighborhood for any movement of cats, or people, and definitely playing with Joy.
Cookie loves snacks too & mom.

Our lives are definitely rich with love with memories of our former rescue pups and they are dearly missed. Cookie and Joy keep us active and busy now.

Each rescue pup came to us with a definite need, love & healing. All of these sweet babies found love and new home. Their story should not end. Their stories should be told so more rescues can find homes.

We are truly blessed and thankful for the Humane Society of Wilkes. The volunteers, & foster pet parents work tirelessly to keep local animals safe and happy. Consider supporting your local rescue organizations if you can.

May the 4th be with you… I mean the workforce

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It would be easy to say that the way we work has changed significantly since Covid-19’s impact. Many people never stopped working during the shutdown, some temporarily worked for home, and others transitioned to full time work at home. Those in the skilled trades were considered essential workers, and their business boomed.

During Covid, it is my belief that the importance of Skilled Trade careers became appreciated, and valued by a larger population. Some might even say that these Skilled Trade careers are going to be “recession” proof… These careers will always be needed.

Elevator technician, Plumbers, Electricians, Welders… and many more career opportunities

But really… aren’t all careers important??? I never have understood why some people place more “value” on some careers than others. We all have value and worth in what we do. No stigma should ever be attached to any job or career path we choose.

Handcrafted woodworking

Today, May 4th is National Skilled Trades Day. This is observed annually on the first Wednesday in May. National Skilled Trades Day was established in 2019 by City Machine Technologies in Youngstown, Ohio. The purpose of the holiday was to raise awareness about the importance of skilled trades workforce in the United States, honor skilled trade workers, and also to create awareness about the skilled trades deficit in the United States.

Skilled trades are the individuals we call to repair our cars, complete complex electrical tasks, do plumbing repairs, build our homes, collect our blood, and ensure the health of our pets.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US will need close to 4 million skilled laborers to replace the nearly 8 million lost from the labor force during the pandemic. The pandemic created a significant labor shortage, and many Baby Boomers who left the skilled work force industries have chosen not to return. Some opted for early retirement rather than returning into the skilled workforce. Boomers are ready & waiting for a new generation to step into the skilled trades workforce.

For those highly skilled workers in trades such as welders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and others, the rate of pay is actually higher on average than college graduates. This rate of pay could grow as the demand for these trade careers increase.

So how do we move to filling the gap in trade based careers ??? The answer is simple in my opinion. We need to talk about it and find solutions. Educators, parents, grandparents, and community leaders, this is a discussion about educating our younger generations about ALL options they have available for career paths.

Beautiful handcrafted items are definitely part of our cultural heritage and legacy of trade based skills

Trade based careers offer a more specialized approach to learning in a specific field, ie plumbing or electrical. The overall cost of a trade based education is significantly less. The time involved in the training can be completed in one to two years versus college, 4 years or more depending on the educational path that is chosen.

College education is great, but every student may not be in the right mindset for university level learning or ready for the debt that it could bring into their future. It sure could save a lot of time, money, and heartbreak by exploring all career options if your teen is not ready for college.

Did you know that student loan debt is the second largest consumer debt factor for many Americans? Mortgage debt ranks first in the consumer debt category.

Student loan debt is estimated at $1.75 trillion with the US federal government holding 92 percent of the debt in student loans.

Approximately 43.4 million people in US have student loan debt(this equates to 1 in 8 Americans). This to me is a heavy dose of information… 😳asking a lot of a young person to tackle… finding a career, paying the student debt, management of family bills and more! Wow!!!

Ultimately, all a parent wishes for their children to have in their chosen career path is happiness, success, financial freedom & security. Right??? Laying out all possibilities in future potential careers today seems to me to be the responsibility of parents, educational staff & other stakeholders in the lives of children.

In closing, isn’t the key to success in a career this… finding what you are passionate about and not treat it as just a job you go to everyday???? Just a thought.

Thanks for reading y’all