It's not too soon to begin prepping homemade food gifts for the holidays, especially the ones that need a little alone time for their full flavors to mature. You'll save a lot of time and money, and it will feel good to start checking off your holiday to-do list before the busy season takes over your life.
1. Limoncello | Ready in 3 to 4 weeks
This bright, lemony Italian liqueur is such an easy DIY to make for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought stuff. And as an after-dinner digestif, it's exactly on-trend right now. Of course, you can mix it into cocktails and even use it to flavor cakes. Be sure to tell your lucky gift recipients to store it in the freezer so it's super-cold and ready to sip at a moment's notice. Couple of tips: Many cooks make limoncello with Everclear instead of vodka. And, when you're peeling the zest from the lemon, be sure none of the white pith goes into the mix, otherwise you'll get a bitter flavor.
2. Coffee Liqueur I | Ready in 4 weeks
The Big Lebowski was onto something good, and now you can do your part to spread that abiding cheer among your friends with this homemade tipple. Tip: Include recipe cards for White Russians and tiramisu with your gift bottles.
3. Homemade Chipotle Oil | Ready in 1 week
Need a gift for someone who likes it hot? They'll love this chipotle-infused oil. bd.weld says, "The first thing I did was make popcorn with this and it made the perfect spicy popcorn." You can also use this simple method to make other spice-flavored oils. Try flavors like curry, turmeric, and ginger. Watch the video to see how ridiculously easy it is to make. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until you're ready to get with the gifting.
4. Homemade Vanilla Extract | Ready in 3 weeks
This one's for the bakers on your list. Tip: You don't have to use top-shelf vodka for this recipe, and some cooks prefer bourbon over vodka. Read this review by What's for dinner, mom? to get her thoughts on the bourbon question, plus a smart prep tip for the vanilla beans.
5. Vanilla Sugar | Ready in 2 to 3 weeks
Talk about easy and impressive! This make-ahead food gift is simply sugar infused with the heady aroma of vanilla beans. The recipe says to let it sit for a week, but the flavor and aroma really builds if you let it sit for a while longer. Tip: This is so seriously easy to make, you'll have the time and energy to put into packaging it up in decorative jars. For an extra-schmancy touch, include a vintage teaspoon for scooping and stirring into coffee.
6. Herbed Vinegars | Ready in 2 to 3 weeks
Elevate plain white vinegar into aromatic bottles of herb-infused magic you'd have to pay big bucks for in fancy food stores. Tip: After the infusion period is over, strain out the used herbs and slip new cuttings into the gift bottles before giving them away.
7. Christmas Fruitcake | Ready in 8 to 10 weeks
Fruitcake has to be the grandmother of all make-ahead food gifts because it needs a good, long, boozy soak to bring out all the flavor. You just might have time to get this one under the wire if you start now. I mean NOW. Tip: Some reviewers said they couldn't wait for the full 10 weeks before tearing into this cake, and they still loved it.
Get more fruitcake recipes.
8. Manhattan Cherries! | Ready in 2 weeks
Fill little jars with dried cherries and top them up with bourbon, and in a couple of weeks you'll have take-along hostess gifts for all the holiday parties from now through New Year's Eve. Tip: These are not as sweet as the usual maraschino cherries you'd find in a classic Manhattan cocktail.
9. Fresh Pineapple Rum | Ready in 2 weeks
If you can't spring for a ticket to the tropics, you can still send your beloved on a taste trip to paradise with this homemade pineapple-infused rum. Tip: Save the strained pineapple to make boozy cupcakes or to serve over ice cream.
10. Berry Cordial | Ready in 8 weeks
It takes a mere 5 minutes to prep this elegant liqueur before you stash it away for a couple of months. Just remember to give it a shake every week. Tip: Run the jar and lid through the dishwasher, or pour boiling water over them, to get them thoroughly clean before filling with the berries and vodka.