Preserves, Pickles, Apple Butter Recipe

Save time during the holidays with preserves you can make now

The beauty of preserving: A little work right now will go a long way later. Plus, there's something satisfying about putting stuff in a jar, walking away, and coming back after a few weeks to deep, complex flavors that can only come from time.

In our second installment of "Countdown to the Holidays," our Test Kitchen uses different preserving agents in four make-now recipes that will add brightness and depth to your holiday table.

The only hard part? Waiting until holiday cooking time to bust open these jars.

Preserving agent: Salt

Recipe: Preserved Lemons

Holiday ideas: Covering lemons in their own juice and a healthy dose of kosher salt mellows their bite, making them sweeter and more intoxicating. Chop the soft, pulpy fruit and add it to stuffing, vinaigrettes and roasted vegetable side dishes, or mix it into butter to rub under the skin of your holiday bird.

Preserving agent: Liquor

Recipe: Brandied Cherries

Holiday ideas: Drop boozy cherries–simmered with brandy, light brown sugar, lemon juice, orange peels and cinnamon–into the Manhattan you'll desperately need after a long day of chopping, roasting and cooking. Spoon them onto crepes at your morning-after breakfast or take a break from pie with a brandied cherry vanilla sundae.

Preserving agent: Vinegar

Recipe: Piccalilli

Holiday ideas: This combination of pickled sweet-and-sour tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and cabbage is a classic English relish. Our version, from Lisa Mygrant of Portland's Raven & Rose brightens the heavy flavors of the typical holiday plate. Spread some onto a post-Thanksgiving turkey Reuben or mix the relish with leftover stuffing and pan fry it.

Preserving agent: Sugar and acid

Recipe: Cardamom-Spiced Apple Butter

Holiday ideas: With its cardamom, brown sugar and lemon, this sweet fruit butter tastes like the holidays. Layer some into a pie before adding the apples, or set it out with your dinner rolls or breakfast spread.