Make-Ahead Gifts from the Kitchen
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These gifts can be made well in advance, then stored until you’re ready to hand them out:
- Cookies: Raw dough can be frozen for up to six weeks and baked cookies can be frozen for up to four weeks. Some cookies even keep well once baked: biscotti can be kept in a closed container at room temperature for several months, and gingerbread cookies can be stored for up to two weeks in airtight container (arrange in single layers between sheets of waxed paper).
- Cookie and Brownie Mix in a Jar: These fun gifts can be put together and stored in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. Include printed mixing and baking instructions with your gift.
- Candy and Fudge: Candies like caramel and fudge can be stored frozen, wrapped in cellophane in an airtight container for up to a year (defrost at room temperature for three hours). Most other candies can be frozen for three weeks--be sure to store soft and hard candies separately and use parchment paper to keep layers from sticking together.
Food Gifts that Need an Early Start
Begin thinking about these gifts soon--they're worth the extra time it takes to let them develop their full flavors!
- Fruitcake: Most recipes for fruitcake need an entire month for ripening. Also, for the best results, the chopped nuts and fruits should sit in the liquor and/or fruit juice for two to three days.
- Homemade Liqueurs: Once you've mixed your liqueurs, you'll need to let them sit for anywhere from a day to several weeks, depending on how potent you want them to be. (Most fruit needs a full two to four weeks for all the flavor to be transferred to the alcohol, whereas chiles, garlic, and most fresh spices only need a couple of days. Smell and taste the infusions to decide when each is ready.)