Take a cup of creativity, a spoonful of a love of cooking and a pinch of passion for marketing and you have one Southern belle with a new product being made, packaged and sold in Oklahoma — Southern Okie Apple Butter Spread.
Gina Hollingsworth, a transplanted Kentuckian from Hopkinsville, KY., moved to Edmond when her husband Mark took a job at Chesapeake. She credits her cooking skills to her grandmother, Virginia Young, and her mother, Nelda Gamble. Virginia opened her own eating establishment in the 1960s, the Plaza Restaurant, and customers would line up on Sundays waiting to get in to be served, Gina was told.
“Not only did my grandmother serve up delicious food, she also served warmth and hospitality,” Hollingsworth said.
Having an entrepreneurial edge runs in her family also. Her grandfather, father and brother are all entrepreneurs, so it is no wonder Hollingsworth would follow in their steps.
She began her working career in the music industry under the country artist Gary Morris. With a 15-year career in the music business, she worked for Troy Tomlinson, president and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Her boss would have fresh fruit delivered to his offices for his clients every week, and at the end of the week what was left could be taken home by the employees.
Soon Hollingsworth was baking cakes, muffins and pies and sharing them with her co-workers.
Hollingsworth said the turning point for her was the afternoon she loaded up her refrigerator with more than 75 apples and as her husband, Mark, opened the refrigerator door an apple rolled out and hit him on the foot.
Wondering to herself, “What in the world am I going to do with all of these apples?” Hollingsworth landed on experimenting with making an apple spread that can be used for just about any dish from appetizers to sides to entrees to desserts.
Some people call it apple pie in a jar, and all one has to do is pour the perfectly blended fruit, cinnamon and spices over a pie shell full of sliced apples and bake it for a mouth-watering, perfectly seasoned apple pie.
The velvety smoothness has only 20 calories per tablespoon, and Hollingsworth laughingly says, “I don’t put anything in it I can’t pronounce. All of the products used to make the spread are the freshest, and the spices are not the ones you can walk into the supermarket and find.”
Denise Castelli of Oklahoma City said, “My family eats Southern Okie Gourmet Apple Spread on everything from waffles to pork to ... I am sharing my big secret here ... right out of the jar.”
After perfecting her apple spread product, Hollingsworth set out to find a manufacturer.
“Last year I made and canned 500 jars of apple spread. This year I have already canned 600 jars,” Hollingsworth said, “and I was ready to find someone to help with the canning.”
Using her marketing background and plain old footwork, Hollingsworth has been handing out samples throughout Edmond. She said setting up a booth at the Edmond Womens’ Club Holiday Market really got her started in the right direction.
“I thought I might sell 20 jars at the holiday market, but I sold 500,” she said. “That was when I decided I needed more help than my husband, Mark, and my two dogs could provide. Although Mark works full-time for Chesapeake, when he comes home he is the shipping department.”
Hollingsworth and her husband are animal lovers, and their chocolate Labrador Amelia Rose is chief of staff. Their rescued yellow Heartland Labrador retriever, Sir Duke, is in charge of security, she said jokingly.
Right now Hollingsworth’s focus is getting her product line out there and having her apple spread become a part of Edmond cooks’ vocabulary. Hollingsworth is in the process of developing new recipes that use the apple spread and online she already has recipes, tested and ready to use.
“I put out an online newsletter twice a month, and that is the place to go to get the recipes first,” she said.
Hollingsworth has placed her Southern Okie Gourmet Apple Spread at Edmond Antiques and she will be selling it at the State Fair of Oklahoma right in front of the Exposition Hall, at the Mistletoe Market and at the Affair of the Heart in the fall.
TO SIGN UP for her Southern Okie Apple Butter Spread newsletter or to check out additional recipes, go to www/southernokie.com. To find Southern Okie on Facebook go to www.facebook.com/pages/Southern-Okie/.