Fresh fruit cobblers are high on the list of summer eating's greatest hits. These easier-than-pie desserts go by many names, like crisps, grunts, slumps, buckles, Bettys, and even sonkers. Yet, they're really all cobblers in the end. Here are some of our favorite cobblers for you to enjoy, plus how to recognize the different cobbler cousins -- you know, just in case you meet one for dessert.
The easiest cobblers are simply made of fruit topped with a thick batter or with spoonfuls of biscuit dough. (Biscuit-topped cobblers look like cobblestones after they're baked, hence the name.) You'll also find cobblers covered with solid or lattice-weave pie crusts.
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Crisps, Crumbles, and Crunches
These cobbler cousins are topped with a streusel mix that could include oatmeal, flour, bread crumbs, sugar, butter, and spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
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Grunts are sweetened fruit stewed under a topping of batter or dumplings, typically on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. The odd name might refer to the guttural sound the fruit makes as steam escapes through the thick topping. Commonly found in New England and Canada's Maritime provinces, grunts and slumps (see below) are thought to be the closest early British colonials could come to recreating the traditional steamed puddings of their homeland.
Slumps are similar to grunts, but some regions call them slumps because of how the batter or dumplings collapse while cooking.
For this kind of cobbler, you pour the batter into the pan first and then you top it with fruit. As it bakes, the batter rises around the fruit to form a cake with an uneven, or buckled, surface. Watch Chef John as he makes a traditional blackberry buckle.
Bettys, aka Brown Bettys
One of the first documented apple desserts in the United States, this colonial hit remains a nostalgic favorite, especially during apple season. Theories abound as to the origin of its name, but none are conclusive. You make a typical Brown Betty with apples layered between a mixture of sweetened bread crumbs, butter, and brown sugar.
You'll bake this homey, rustic fruit dessert with a batter topping that is sometimes broken and tucked down into the fruit while it cooks. The name is thought to come from its unadorned, or dowdy, presentation.
This cobbler variation is a native of North Carolina, specifically Surry and Wilkes counties. While a typical sonker recipe includes fruit and batter or biscuits, this highly regional dish is interpreted differently from family to family. All agree that it must be served with a thick, sweet, milky dip. But no one knows exactly how it got its name.