What holiday treats should/could be started now?
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Pickles. Jams, jellies and preserves. Home-brewed beer, wine or mead. Cookie doughs can often be made now and frozen to be baked later. Same with pie fillings.
I can jams and jellies and salsas for holiday gifts. I've frozen dough for cookies, but never this early -- but it's a great idea! I also freeze plum tarts and small pumpkin spice breads for gifts.
QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.
A jar of preserved lemons takes just 3 weeks to "pickle" and lasts for at least 6 months. I often give these pretty jars as Christmas gifts, with some of my favorite recipes attached.
I made a large batch for Mother's Day and I already have requests for more
AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
Chutneys and mustards should be made now, as they are always better after a month or two (but should be processed for shelf stability). Marmalade also taste better after a few months, as does boozy fruit. This is one of my favorites: http://food52.com/recipes... . There are many others here on FOOD52. Apart from actually making your treats, this is a good time to pull together your game plan -- selecting recipes, creating shopping checklists and timetables, laying in stores of staples and special ingredients you'll need, packing supplies and decorative labels, etc. Speaking of packing supplies . . . . I send dozens of jars of jams, chutneys and blueberries in syrup to friends and family in other states. I actually pack them up in USPS flat rate boxes (leaving space for baked goods I'll make right before sending), and even apply the shipping labels, during October and November. It makes December, which is usually the busiest month of the year for my law practice, much much easier! ;o)
MrsWheelbarrow recently wrote a story about slivovitz, or plum brandy, in the Washington Post. It needs to sit for a few months and would make a fine holiday gift:
I come from slivovitz producing country :)
Slivovitz itself is a plum brandy. But the real specialty in Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria is a liqueur called "Visnjevaca" (stands for cherry brandy) made with slivovitz, sour cherries, sugar and spices
My grandparents and parents used to make it every summer. Whenever I visited my parrents, I would bring some and cherrish only with the closest of my closest friends. But my mom and dad are old now and do not make it anymore. These days it is really difficult to find the real homemade visnjavaca, the ones sold in the supermarkets are not worth it.
Sugared or spiced nuts is a good choice for a make ahead holiday gift. They keep well in airtight containers after cooled and dried. Now is a good time to experiment with ones you will find delish... Many good recipes are on the web. I find them quick to make.