The fruits of their labours

Some of the volunteers working hard in the Rippon Hall kitchen. Photo from Local Food Wanaka.
Some of the volunteers working hard in the Rippon Hall kitchen. Photo from Local Food Wanaka.
Gina Dempster rescues apples for the chutney pot. Photo by Si Williams.
Gina Dempster rescues apples for the chutney pot. Photo by Si Williams.
Some of last year’s product. Photos from Local Food Wanaka.
Some of last year’s product. Photos from Local Food Wanaka.
Pots containing about 28 jars of chutney each go on the heat.
Pots containing about 28 jars of chutney each go on the heat.

It's April 2013 in Wanaka. You're a tourist with a day of relaxation stretching ahead. There's a hint of winter chill in the air and the poplars around the lake glow like bright yellow lollipops. A spot of wine-tasting at Rippon's biodynamic vineyard sounds like a relaxing way to spend half an hour.

But instead of the quiet scene you anticipated the kitchen next door to the tasting room is buzzing with the sound of people talking and laughing and a rhythmical whacking noise. You poke your head in the door and see more than 100 people chopping apples and stirring giant pots of chutney.

In the yard outside, more people are squeezing apples in a giant press. The juice is decanted into a selection of clean plastic bottles, to be turned by wild yeasts into cider and apple cider vinegar.

Before you know it, you've joined the crowd chopping, stirring and bottling for the next three hours. This is the inaugural Wanaka Great Autumn Apple Drive, which preserved and juiced 1200kg of apples.

Most of those apples would otherwise have gone to waste, fallen by the roadside, in a former orchard or on the lawn outside someone's house.

It's a true story. Wine-tasting tourists did wander into the first apple drive, and probably had one of the more memorable experiences of their trip.

As well as taking home some of the jars of apple chutney they'd helped to bottle, they had a hands-on experience of the Wanaka community working together to save food from waste.

This year will be the fourth time Local Food Wanaka has organised the Great Autumn Apple Drive. In the spirit of celebrating the harvest season and local food, the event has been expanded this year to include a Local Food Fair in the afternoon with stalls and workshops.

The traditional chutney-making and apple-pressing will be polished off in the morning.

Then, while the choppers and stirrers have a rest and eat their picnic lunches on the lawn, local food stalls will be set up and workshop presenters will get ready for the afternoon sessions.

Stalls will sell hand-made food and beverages, including beer, hot chocolate made from real chocolate, and wine. Other stalls include a seed swap table, a Love Food Hate Waste stall with a smoothie bike, herbal remedies and ‘‘how to make'' cider and sourdough bread.

The workshops start at 1pm, and cover topics from home brewing with Ground-Up Brewery, to seed-saving and making kombucha, a fizzy fermented tea-based drink. Sophie Ward, from Local Food Wanaka, says that it's all about sharing a love of food and expanding what you can make and grow at home.

Ben Elms will run a fruit-tree pruning demonstration during the afternoon, on some of the fruit trees surrounding the Rippon Hall. The last three apple drives have attracted people from all over the Clutha valley. Many have been experienced chutney makers, but others are total newbies.

There's no pressure though, because Lorne from Pirate Pickles is the master chutney maker on the day. He brings a variety of proven recipes with him, but can also get creative depending on what fruit arrives.

People can bring along any surplus fruit they have, not just apples. Everyone who helps to make chutney and apple juice gets some to take home. Jars of chutney are also donated to the Community Networks Foodbank for distribution to families who need food support in Wanaka.

Ms Ward said sharing recipes and celebrating the harvest together makes all the volunteer hours which go into organising the apple drive and Local Food Fair worth it.

‘‘Wanaka is so isolated and we're dependent on trucks to bring in nearly all our food. Growing, making and preserving food in Wanaka helps to make us a more resilient community. And there's nothing like food to bring a community together.''

If there's fruit falling off trees and going to waste in your neighbourhood, why not run your own apple (or other fruit) drive? Local Food Wanaka would love to share all the knowledge they've collected about how to run one including recipes, equipment lists, and posters.

Contact Sophie Ward on

Gina Dempster is communications officer at Wanaka Wastebusters.

Each week in this column, one of a panel of writers addresses issues of sustainability.

-By Gina Dempster


Apple-drive chutney


3kg peeled, cored and diced cooking apples
1.5kg peeled and diced brown onions
1 litre apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1.2kg soft brown sugar (or white sugar)
350g sultanas, raisins or currants
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp yellow or black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground black or white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt


Place all ingredients except the sugar in a 8-12 litre heavy-based stock pot and bring to boil very slowly. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the onions are soft.

Remove and discard the bay leaves.

Add the sugar and stir in until it has fully dissolved. Continue to simmer and stir regularly until it reaches a thicker jam-like consistency, about 60-80 minutes.

Sterilise jars ready for chutney. To sterilise jars, place clean jars into a preheated oven at 100degC for 10 minutes before use.

Remove chutney from the heat, decant into the hot jars and seal with clean metal lids with rubber seals. The jars will cool and the lids will depress, creating an excellent seal.

The chutney will be ready to use once cooled but will improve with age. It is best to use the chutney within three years of making. Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight, such as a pantry.

Apple chutney with chilli

To give your chutney a nice bit of heat and a kick add 2 tsp of chilli powder and 2 tsp of chilli flakes to the recipe. You can use finely chopped fresh chillies if you have them, about 6 tsp dependent on the strength of the chillies you are using.

Adding extra heat will reduce the sweetness of the chutney.




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