All fragments aside, I do loathe this tree, and I had every intention of either carefully molding it down to manageable size, or chopping it down entirely. It is a nuisance, and I've no time for nuisances.
Now that I've ranted a diva's portion, let me show you what I did decide to do with the apples my boys and I could gather.
Don't you just imagine that this is what jelly in heaven looks like? I, of course, agree wholeheartedly. Rather than peel, core, slice, mash, or otherwise push myself to the brink of insanity by dissecting and cooking down my smaller than the grocery store sized apples, I opted to chop them up, combine them intelligently with other bounties of our garden, and create my first jalapeño jelly. Oh, and it's divine, made completely with organic ingredients from our garden, excepting the two things I can't grow here: cranberries and sugar. No added pectin, colors, or flavours, just delicious freshness, sweetness, and a kick that reminds you that this pairs as well with peanut butter as it does with smooth cream cheese.
adapted from Simply Recipes
yield 4-6 cups jelly
I doubled this, but it proved a massive challenge to my cookware restraints, especially during boiling. It did, however, set up just fine, since it used natural pectin and sugar to do sorather than store bought stuff.
4 lbs of tart apples (e.g. Granny Smith), unpeeled, chopped into big pieces, including the cores
5 jalapeño chili peppers, chopped (remove the ribs and seeds to make it mild)
1 serrano pepper, chopped (you could replace this with another jalapeño if you want)
1 bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
1 cup cranberries (optional but recommended, will help with color and with setting)
3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
3 1/2 cups sugar (7/8 cup for each cup of juice)
Combine the apple pieces, apple cores (needed for their pectin content), jalapenos, bell pepper, cranberries (if using), water and vinegar in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low, simmering for about 20 minutes, or until the apples, cranberries, and peppers are soft. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan where it might burn. When apples are soft, use a potato masher or stick blender to mash up the apple pieces to the consistency of slightly runny apple sauce.
Spoon the mash into a douple layer of cheesecloth set inside a colander and set over a large bowl. Leave to strain for several hours or overnight—the longer it sits, the more juice and flavour you'll get. If your pulp is too thick, and nothing is coming out, you can add an extra 1/2 cup or cup of water to it. You want to end up with about 4 cups of juice, although I came up with 6-7 cups because I let it drain almost 24 hours.
Measure the juice, then pour into a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot. Add the sugar (7/8 a cup for each cup of juice—3 1/2 cups is a guide, use the 7/8 rule to get it just right.) Heat gently, stirring to make sure the sugar gets dissolved and doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Bring to a boil and cook forEVER. The original recipe said 10-15 minutes, but I sat there for almost two hours last night carefully making sure it didn't boil over in my unacceptably-sized pot. Use a spoon to skim off the surface scum. Continue to boil until a candy thermometer shows that the temperature has reached 220-222°F (8-10°F above the boiling point at your altitude). Additional time needed for cooking can be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on the amount of water, sugar, and apple pectin in the mix. Candy thermometers aren't always the most reliable indicators of whether or not a jelly is done. Another way to test is put a half teaspoonful of the jelly on a chilled (in the freezer) plate. Allow the jelly to cool a few seconds, then push it with your fingertip. If it wrinkles up, it's ready. That's how I did it, and I'm happy with the results; for those checking, it was at 225˚ when it wrinkled on the plate.
Pour jelly into sterilized jars to within 1/4" of the top and seal in a hot water bath following good health guidelines.