The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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December 3, 2012

Apples to apples

Hartsgrove Township woman makes gourmet apples a holiday treat

HARTSGROVE TOWNSHIP —

The brown and white Granny Smith apple is a sight to behold.

More than a pound heavier than its fellow naked fruits, the apple carries the weight of indulgence — white and milk chocolate, nuts, caramel, candy pieces and anything else Rhonda McElroy can think to add to an apple.

McElroy is the owner of Circle Creek Cabin, a pizza and custard restaurant in Hartsgrove Township. From about Thanksgiving until Christmas, McElroy makes a seasonal addition to her gourmet lineup: Her Hollow Grove Granny Smith apples.

“These apples are a dream come true,” she said. “I make them any way you want them, with caramel and chocolate and nuts and the result is more delicious than the sum of its parts.”

Her specialty is the “apple pie” apple. The recipe is complex.

“The apples are dipped in my blend of caramel, rolled in cinnamon and sugar and then in mini cinnamon flavored chocolate bits and then rolled in chocolate. The whole thing is finished with another layer of drizzled chocolate because you just can’t have enough chocolate on an apple.”

The average price is $13 for this fruited indulgence.

“The apples start out as apples, but by the time I’m done they are a pound to a pound and a half of heaven,” she said. “I’m not afraid to load up an apple.”

Flavors include apple pie, walnut cranberry, sweet and salty (with pretzel pieces), Oreo cookie, coconut, pecan turtle, orange nut, cashew turtle and every kind of candy bar.

McElroy’s customers aren’t afraid to eat them, either.

“Some of my customers order the apples ‘super jumbo’ sized, and that is a whole different level of apple,” she said. “I can do any blend of goodies on these apples.”

The apples, made to be sliced and enjoyed, have been ordered as gifts, and smaller versions of the Granny Smiths have been used as favors for weddings, parties, baby showers and other events, McElroy said.

“They make just excellent Christmas gifts,” she said. “Some people buy 10 or 12 of these to give as gifts at Christmas because everyone who tastes one wants one.”

McElroy said she has shipped apples to almost every state and even one all the way to a serviceman in Germany.

McElroy said she has been cooking her whole life and started making the apples as a creative outlet.

“I really didn’t ever plan on selling them, but they got so popular I sort of had to,” she said.

She set up a stand at the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival several years ago and history was made.

“I sold a hundred of these apples in a weekend,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how much people loved them.”

To ensure freshness, McElroy makes the apples to order and the wrapped fruit can last up to two weeks in the refrigerator. She takes orders year round, but is focused on the holidays now.

To order Hollow Grove apples in any quantity call 645-5059. Circle Creek Cabin is located in Hartsgrove circle, behind the BP gas station.

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