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I need to preserve some fruits (raisins, figs, pomegranates, and dates), in tiny bottles, so they last for years.
I don't mind ruining the food, as it will anyway not be used for eating.
I can fill the bottles with liquid if required, as long as the original color is preserved.

How and what can I fill these bottles with to avoid the fruit's spoilage and decay?

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None of the classic food preservation techniques will work for you. They are about having the food stay edible, not stay beautiful.

Most fixation solutions will work, but you probably don't want to keep them around your house. For example, if you filled the bottle with formaldehyde, it will not only be a major problem should it break in an accident, but I'd be also worried about anything which might seep through an imperfect seal - it is highly volatile, and neurotoxic and carcinogenic already in the ppm levels.

The one good way I see to do it is to use man's favorite poison: alcohol. Fill the bottles with ethanol until they are fully submerged. In principle, drinking alcohol at 37.5% will do, but in this case, the stronger, the better. Just use medicinal ethanol, it's also cheaper because you don't pay taxes.

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    I can say from experience that alcohol will eventually affect the color and appearance of the fruits (though I usually do this for the benefit of the alcohol). Previously-dried fruits like raisins will do pretty well but they'll almost certainly degrade over a period of years. But then, I can't think of anything better. – logophobe Oct 8 '14 at 17:52
  • I think mineral oil is also commonly used for this. – Cascabel Oct 8 '14 at 22:06
  • Agree with @Logophobe: I forgot to mention that the lifetime is more likely to be many months (well, probably 1-2 years) than many years. But using very strong alcohol should help, his experiments probably didn't involve medicinal alcohol. – rumtscho Oct 9 '14 at 5:30
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First suggestion

Fill the bottles with clear resin.

I used this many, many years ago at a church camp where we made our own keyrings by surrounding a small object with clear resin. I remember it as being reasonably straightforward. Google returns lots of how-to videos for using it.

I don't imagine it will keep the food for a long period, as biological processes will still take place in the entombed items, but it might be long enough for your purposes.

Second suggestion

Scan the food items, 3D print them in a material that won't decompose, paint it, put it in the bottles surrounded by plain water. :-)

  • Given the current state of 3D print technology, just using wax fruit will give a much more realistically looking decoration. It can turn out to be cheaper, too. But +1 for creativity! I'm not sure about the resin though, I'd expect something as large and watery as a fruit to change inside the resin, shrivel maybe. Not all changes in a fruit come from its contact with outside air. But I admit I haven't actually tried it, maybe it works. – rumtscho Oct 9 '14 at 5:26
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Vacuum canning is probably the most practical approach. The jars in the photo below are a half gallon in size. And, of course, the sizes just go down from there.

vacuum foods

This pretty much limits you to the use of Ball mason jars though. But you could carry some of their lids around for awhile (just the disks) and see if somewhere you can come upon some alternative jars whose mouths just happen to be the same size as that of the Ball's. That' what I would do. Don't worry about not having the screw-on part. Just prep the rim with an ultrathin coat of soft glue, (just so nothing can snag itself under that slight, exposed little lip), and let your decorative genius take care of the rest!

There are a variety of vacuum sealing machines on the market. The one pictured below is a Wolfgang Puck. For any of these machines the same principle is employed. The disk for the jar fits into a cap. The cap is placed onto the jar. Air is drawn from the jar by attaching a hose to a port in the top of the cap. Voila!

Wolgang Puck Food Saver

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  • You've neglected to mention that the food has to be already somehow preserved (dehydrated, for example) to make this work. – Cascabel Oct 19 '14 at 17:08
  • I was relying on the details included on the page to which I provided a link, but I agree that it would have been good to have mentioned it myself as well. Thanks. – Tom Raywood Oct 21 '14 at 20:33

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