photograph by Revival Photography, Sara Brennan

Pam Foy has stepped into very large shoes at Rockford General Store: She’s taking up the making and baking of sonker, the sorta-pie, sorta-cobbler dessert found only in Surry County — unless, Foy says, “some grandma moved to Wilkes County and took the recipe with her.” Foy helped her sister-in-law Carolyn Carter make sonker until Carolyn’s death in 2018.

Carolyn learned her own sonker secrets from Mrs. Catherine Hutchins — look for her picture on the wall. Carolyn’s husband, Paul, explains that sonker was “always around because it was easy to make, fed a lot, and was inexpensive.”

In the store, big glass jars are filled with old-fashioned candy, but customers come for servings of peach, sweet potato, cherry, and berry sonker to eat right at the oilcloth-covered table or take home for later. The 200-year-old Scotch-Irish tradition — no one knows the origin of the name “sonker” — calls for a plain pie crust on the sides and top of a bowl, fruit mixed with sugar, a bit of butter (“more for sweet potatoes,” Foy says), and 40 minutes in the oven. Warm fruit juice soaks the crust, and cold ice cream makes it perfect.

Rockford General Store
5174 Rockford Road
Dobson, NC 27017
(336) 374-5317

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.