Frequently Asked Questions -- Kosher Food

This document is posted monthly to the rec.food.cuisine.jewish newsgroup.

This FAQ contains:
 



Policy Statement of the rec.food.cuisine.jewish Usenet Newsgroup

When Hillel, one of the revered Jewish sages, was challenged to teach the Torah while standing on one foot, he gave the famous reply: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Now, go and study."

It is in this spirit that the following material is presented. "On one foot," the basics of the Jewish dietary laws are:
 

We, therefore, request that recipes which do not conform to these requirements not be posted to rec.food.cuisine.jewish.

The rest is *complex* commentary.

The following is presented only as an informative outline of this complex area of Jewish religious law. Because Judaism does not have a universal authority for interpretation of Biblical commandments, the fine points of
practice depend upon which school of thought one follows. Nothing in this information, therefore, should be taken as being authoritative. For serious advise, one should always consult one's own authority on the "halakha," the body of interpretation of Jewish religious law. [The "shorthand" for this is CYLAH; consult your local authority on "halakha."]

In the spirit of Hillel, we also ask that you "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Please treat other posters  with the same respect you expect for yourself. Bear in mind, please, that, along with having Jewish posters who represent the entire spectrum of religious practice, there also may be non-Jewish readers or posters who are
interested  in the Jewish style of cooking or because the dietary laws  are similar to those  of their religion. We want everyone to feel equally comfortable and welcome.
 



DEDICATION - contributors - feedback address

This FAQ is fondly dedicated to the memory of Pat Gold, whose untimely death on October 7, 1996, is still felt by many who cared for her. Pat loved the creativity of cooking, and her interest in Jewish cuisine put her on a path to exploring her Jewish heritage. This FAQ is based on her concept and includes much from her research, writing and input. Those of us who cared for her can only hope the path on which she had embarked led her to peace.

The FAQ was written/compiled/edited by Pat Gold, Beth Greenfeld, and Ruth Heiges.

Valuable contributions were made by: Abe Leibowitz, Andrea Herrera, Debra Fran Baker, and Robert Sharp.

It cannot be over-emphasized that this FAQ in no way purports to be authoritative. Interpretations of the laws of kashruth can be made only by a competent rabbinic/halakhic authority.

Accordingly, and since they are intended only as a broad explanation of the Jewish dietary laws, changes and/or additions to the explanations will be made only if something is shown to be patently misleading.

Additions, such as useful toll-free phone numbers, catalogue/mail-order companies, and the like should be submitted to:

Ruth Heiges



Why Jewish cuisine?

Wherever Jews have lived, from the ancient Middle East to the modern Americas, they have eaten the local foods. So what are Jewish foods? They are those local foods which are allowed by halakha and, in some cases, developed or adapted to meet Jewish needs. Jewish cuisine is not only East-European food. Every Jewish community -- Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Yemenite, Italian and others -- has met the requirements of Judaism in its own way and with its own cuisine.

Reasons, other than kashruth, for Jewish cuisine include:

1. Shabbat: Two Shabbat rules, in particular, have influenced the development of Jewish food. One is the prohibition against removing the unwanted parts of a mixture, such as the bones from fish. This resulted in the development of gefilte fish, which (at least in theory) has no bones.

Better known is the rule against putting things up to cook on Shabbat. Since stews, and other long cooking items may be put up before Shabbat, a range of such dishes was developed. The most well known of these is "cholent" (called "hamin" by Sephardic Jews).

2. Holidays: The effect of the Passover on Jewish food may ultimately have a FAQ of its own, but other holidays have had their effects as well.

Rosh Hashanah, with its emphasis on sweet things, has led to honey cake and "taigelech." A pun on the Yiddish word for carrots -- "mehren" -- which can also mean "to increase", has led to carrot tzimmes. Shavuot, characterized by dairy foods, has led to blintzes and cheesecakes.


What constitutes kosher food?

In determining whether a recipe you want to post is kosher, bear in mind the basic concepts of kosher food: no mixing of dairy and meat; no pork or pork products; no shell fish.

This also applies to food products containing such ingredients. For example, a food coloring made from a shell fish would be considered unkosher and would taint the food in which it might be used. Similarly, using, e.g., an animal fat together with dairy ingredients renders the product unkosher and taints even the implements used in making it.

If a recipe is not in keeping with these basic requirements, consider whether substitutions can be made to adjust it for "kashruth" (e.g., substituting margarine for butter in a meat recipe). If you are unsure of how to make such substitutions, post the recipe and ask for suggestions as how to do so. Please note clearly that the recipe is not fundamentally kosher.

The following provides further details as to which foods are acceptable.


MEAT

Meat That Is Allowed

Beef Veal Venison Mutton Lamb

Notes:

1. The animal from which the meat is taken must have been slaughtered in accordance with prescribed Jewish ritual.

2. All liver must be broiled before use in recipes, because of a prohibition against ingesting blood.

All meat must be kashered by (1) soaking and salting or by (2) sprinkling with salt and broiling. Liver may be kashered only by broiling.

Ashkenazim generally soak and salt all meat, while Sephardim omit this if the meat is to be broiled. Note that if the meat was not kashered within three days of slaughter, it should be kashered by broiling. For meat which has been frozen. [Consult your local authority on "halakha."]

3. Because the sciatic nerve and certain parts of the fat must be removed in order to eat the meat of the hindquarters (this is a laborious job and takes special training), filet mignon, rump and sirloin steaks, leg of lamb, and London broil usually are not available in kosher form in North America, though they may be in other parts of the world.
 

Meat That Is Not Allowed

Any animal which does not both chew its cud and have a split hoof, such as rabbit or hare, pig, horse, dog or cat.


POULTRY AND OTHER FOWL

The Torah names the bird species which are not kosher. Since we are not certain to which birds all of these ancient Hebrew names refer, only birds which traditionally have been eaten are allowed; primarily, domesticated fowl.

Please note that they are considered to be meat. They must be slaughtered by a ritual slaughterer (shokhet), and the prohibition against mixing dairy products with them applies, as for with other sources of meat.
 

Fowl That Is Allowed

Chicken Turkey Quail Cornish Hens Doves/Pigeon (Squab) Goose Duck Pheasant

Note: All liver must be broiled before use in recipes, because of a prohibition against ingesting blood.

Note: In the U.S., the only fowl which are kosher-slaughtered, commercially, are chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.
 

Fowl That Is Not Allowed

In most general terms, birds of prey are not allowed.

***************************************************************************

FISH
 

Fish That Is Allowed

Fish must have both fins and scales that are detachable from the skin. All fish which have them are allowed.
 

Fish That Is Not Allowed

All shellfish (shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, scallops, etc.) and crustaceans (crabs, crayfish/crawfish, etc.)

Scavengers/"Bottom-feeders" (such as catfish, monkfish), unless they have fins and scales.

Sturgeon (and, by extension, sturgeon caviar) and swordfish -- some Conservative opinion finds these acceptable. [Consult your local authority on "halakha."]


FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND GRAINS

All fruits, vegetables and grains are allowed.

Grape Products: Because of the sacramental dimension of wine in Judaism, a special body of laws governs grape products. Kashruth-observant Jews use only those grape products which have proper supervision. This applies to wine, grape juice, grape jelly, vinegar, and all soft drinks that use white grape juice as a sweetener. It does not apply to fresh grapes or raisins.

NOTE: All kosher Israeli wines are produced under conditions of  Passover kashruth. They are, thus, all KLP (Kosher l'Pesach) year round.

Israeli posters should note that all local produce must be tithed before it may be used. This is generally done for produce sold in stores and markets, but should be done by the consumer for produce bought directly from the farm. [Consult your local authority on "halakha."]


SEPARATION OF DAIRY FROM MEAT

Meat and dairy ingredients must not be mixed together.

  • Milk dishes must be cooked and eaten separately from meat dishes.
  • Meat dishes must be cooked and eaten separately from milk dishes.
  • This prohibition against mixing dairy and meat also extends to the plates, cutlery, utensils and cooking vessels used in association with them, necessitating a full set of each in a kosher kitchen. In addition, many keep additional sets and equipment which are pareve (neutral).

    Sephardic tradition considers glass dishes to be neutral. [Consult your local authority on "halakha."]


    CHEESE

    Although cheeses are dairy, some cheeses are not kosher if they are made with animal-origin rennet from a non-kosher animal.

    The Conservative movement has a broader definition of kosher cheeses. [Consult your local authority on "halakha."]


    PAREVE (neutral) Food

    Fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits and grains may be eaten with either milk or meat dishes.

    NOTE: Some communities do not permit fish and meat to be cooked together, and some do not permit fish and dairy to be cooked together. They may, however, be served at the same meal on separate dishes and with separate utensils. It is not the place of this FAQ to get into the details or reasons for these practices.

    Pareve (neutral) cooking oils such as vegetable oils and shortenings may be used with both milk and meat dishes.

    Flour, without dairy additives, is pareve.


    MISCELLANEOUS

    Most insects and other "creepy crawlies" are prohibited. Snails are, therefore, unkosher, and certain food additives or colorings made from insects are unkosher.

    One who keeps kosher also will exercise care in using products containing gelatin, which can be of animal origin.


    "What do these words mean?"

    A lot of Jewish/Yiddish or Hebrew terms (and their adaptations into English) are often used by posters. Here are some of the key ones.

    GLOSSARY

    Many Jewish/Yiddish or Hebrew terms (and their adaptations into English) are often used by posters. Here are some of the key terms.

    Ashkenazic/Ashkenazim: Refers to the Jews whose origins were in Eastern Europe, particularly Czarist Russia, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany.

    Blech: Metal; refers to a metal placed over the lit burners on a stove for use in warming or keeping foods warm during the Sabbath. Also known as a "platta."

    Brakha or bracha: A blessing.

    CYLAH: Consult your local authority on "halakha."

    Fleishig or fleishedik: Meat.

    Frum: Religious.

    Glatt: Means "smooth;" a particularly high standard of "kashruth." It can also be referred to as "mehadrin."

    Halakhic authority: A rabbi or rabbinical authority (by an individual or a religious group) trusted for making decisions in religious matters.

    Hekhsher: Indication on a food product that it has been processed under the supervision of a recognized Rabbinic authority.

    Kashruth, Kashrut, Kashrus: The body of Jewish dietary laws.

    Kashering or Koshering: These terms are used in reference to making utensils or a kitchen kosher. It also refers to the salting process used for meat (also known as "melikha)."

    Kosher: In keeping with the Jewish dietary laws.

    Kosher salt: Coarse salt used for koshering meat; i.e., drawing out the blood by soaking in salted cold water ("melikha"). Kosher salt can also be used in cooking.

    Mehadrin: See glatt, above.

    Melikha: From the Hebrew work for salt (melakh); the salting process for drawing blood from the meat.

    Milkhig or milikhdig: Dairy.

    Mitzvah: Commandments - things commanded by God to the Jews in the Torah. It has the colloquial meaning of "good deed."

    Pareve: Describes food which is neutral -- neither dairy or meat -- and which consequently can be used with either.

    Platta: Same as "blech." See above.

    Sephardic/Sephardim: Refers to the descendants of those Jews who lived in the Middle East since the post-Second Temple exile and those expelled from Spain and Portugal by the Spanish Inquisition during the late 15th Century. Many of the latter settled in North Africa and other countries of the Mediterranean Basin, the Baltics, France, Holland and England; eventually, also in the Americas.

    Shabbat or shabbos: The Jewish sabbath.

    Shekhita: Ritual slaughter, a method which is particularly humane, preventing undue suffering to the animal.

    Shokhet: A trained ritual slaughterer.

    Simkha or simcha: A celebration or happy occasion.

    Torah: The Bible.

    Treif or taref: Not kosher.


    Are there any Internet "kashruth" resources?

    There is a great proliferation of Jewish resources, in general, on the Internet, including a lot of new ones on "kashruth." Rather than attempting to provide a comprehensive list, it is recommended that one do a search, using one of the popular search engines. The following are only a fraction of some of the helpful sites.

    Steven Ross Weintraub maintains a website dealing with "kashruth" from a Conservative standpoint on his personal web page: Kashruth, Theory, Law & Practice by Steven Weintraub

    KOF-K Kosher Supervision

    Orthodox Union (OU)   Mailing list: Orthodox Union Kashrut Alerts, oukosher@shamash.org

    Kosher Overseers Associates of America (Half Moon K)

    Mimi's Cyber Kitchen (Mimi Hiller) gives links to various sites (private and commercial) which deal with kosher food and cooking, including many, if not all, of the additional resources listed below.
     

    The Usenet Newsgroup, soc.culture.jewish, maintains an extensive copyrighted FAQ (in 11 parts) dealing with myriad facets of Judaism. Part 4, Section 6, contains "Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut."

    [Part 4/11]

    Section 6. Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut 6.1. What is Kosher? Doesn't a rabbi just bless the food 6.2. How can I learn about Kashrut? Is there a "Kosher" FAQ? 6.3. There are a wide variety of kosher symbols. How do I learn who's behind them? 6.4. I'm going to be in <XXX>. How do I find the kosher restaurants? 6.5. Do I need to have a kosher kitchen and kosher home to keep kosher? 6.6. Why do different groups wait different times? 6.7. Why are there different customs on Pesach (i.e., Kitniyos)? 6.8. I'm a vegetarian health-food proponent. Is kosher food healthier? 6.9. Is vegetarianism kosher?

    The following separate FAQ related to Judaism is also published as part of the S.C.J. FAQ:

    o Jewish Resources by Mail Order and Computer Steve Seidman <srs3@crux3.cit.cornell.edu> ---

    The section on "kashruth" may be accessed as follows:

    Anonymous FTP:

    All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists are archived on shamash.nysernet.org [192.77.173.13] and on rtfm.mit.edu, and are available for anonymous FTP; on shamash.org as follows:

    ftp://shamash.org/israel/lists/scj-faq/FAQ/04-Observance

    If you are accessing the archives on rtfm.mit.edu, use this path

    Mail: The files may also be obtained via Email by sending a message with the following line in the body of the message:

    WWW/Mosaic: The FAQ and reading lists
     

    Additional sites

    All-Kosher Index™ of the United Kashrut Authority

    Asian American Kashrus Services - The largest kosher website

    Asian American Kashrus Services - List of Symbols (Supervision)

    Asian American Kashrus Services - All about kashruth

    Rabbi Eidlitz - Author of "Is it Kosher"

    Hekhsher Information

    Hekhsher Information -- Rabbi Eidlitz, Kosher Information Bureau

    Israeli Cuisine and Wine -- a detailed exposition by Daniel Rogov, a leading food and wine writer in Israel

    Jewish Communication Network

    Jewish Vegan Lifestyle -- within the TORAH laws

    Judaism and the Art of Eating

    Kashrus.Org -- listing of kosher fish

    Kashrut.Com - Kosher food information and product alerts

    Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws -- the Judaism 101 FAQ

    Kashruth Council of Toronto
     
    Kashrut Guide Index -- Union of Orthodox Synagogues of South Africa

    Kashrut FAQ -- "Judaism 101"

    Kosher Overseers Associates of America (Half Moon K)

    KOF-K Kosher Supervision

    Kosherfest '98 -- USDA kosher reports and other new product info
     
    The Kosher Nexus -- electronic newsletter, an entertaining look at the latest in the world of Kashrut. To subscribe, send an e-mail with the body of the message reading: subscribe HAGAHELET

    London Beth Din -- details of supervised products, suppliers, restaurants

    Orthodox Union (OU) -- includes excellent primer on "kashruth"    Mailing list: Orthodox Union Kashrut Alerts

    Star K -- articles, recipes

    "What Makes Wine Kosher?" -- article
     

    Recipe Sites

    Archives of the rec.food.cuisine.jewish Newsgroup

    "Baker Boulanger" -- Jewish holiday baking, plus other recipes

    Chinese recipes, kosher

    Gourmet Kosher Recipes

    Jewish Communication Network - Jewish Food - articles and recipe links

    Kedem Kosher Kitchen -- a few special recipes using wines

    Kosher European Food - British company specializing in kosher meals to groups throughout Europe

    Kosher Express - recipes   (Subject: Mastercook III Archive)

    Kosher Food & Recipes - The Mining Co.

    KosherZone Kitchen

    MCIII Archive -- Israeli Cooking

    Virtual Jerusalem's Living Kitchen

    Yiddish Recipes
     

    Commercial, Mail Order and/or Phone Numbers

    American Gourmet -- kosher, sugar-free, fat-free and diabetic items  1-800-966-7263 or 1-800-966-SANDY

    Arctic Pacific Fisheries, Inc. -- smoked fish

    Auerbach's Cyber-Kosher Shopping Source

    Brauner's Kosher Bakery - variety of products made from spelt flour

    Chocolate Emporium - parve specialty chocolates & confections

    Cleary's -- organic maple syrup and products Toll-Free 1-800-461-8872 (Canada and U.S.)
    Toll-Free Fax 1-800-843-5668

    Delancey Dessert Company -- Gertel's Bakery products 1-800-254-5254

    Donut Man, The -- 14-inch kosher donut

    Egg Farm Dairy -- specialty dairy products and cheeses

    Empire Kosher Products

    Everett HealthCare, U.K.  -- vegetarian and vegan food supplements

    Excellent Kosher Baked Goods -- Brand's and others

    Fairytale Brownies, Inc. 1-800-FAIRYTALE

    Food for Thought -- kosher gift baskets

    Golden Hill Kosher Gourmet Catalogue

    Israel Book Shop -- labels for kosher kitchen 800-333-6700

    Israel Direct -- food, wine, food gift baskets

    The Jewish Mall - Mail-order foods

    K-of-K Your kashrus questions answered at 201-837-0500, FAX: 201-837-0126.

    Kosher Caterers -- US National Index

    Kosher Express - recipes, articles, products

    Kosher Grocer -- on-line shopping for home; hotel delivery for travelers

    Kosher Mall - great variety of products, recipes, articles

    Kosher Net -- restaurants, suppliers, online shopping,  products

    Kosher Nosh -- deli selection

    Kosher Notions -- labeling systems and accessories for the kosher kitchen

    Kosher Nutritionals Co. -- kosher-certified vitamins and supplements 1-800-951-9985
     
    Kosher Supermarket -- online grocery shopping; international delivery, including to hotel rooms

    KWOTI-Kosher Wines on the Internet -- Israeli, French, Italian, California, New York, sparkling

    Manischewitz - products, electronic greeting cards

    Mansoura Middle Eastern Bakery -- Sephardic pareve baked goods

    Maramor Candy Co. -- kosher candies 800-843-7722

    Mill Basin Kosher Deli and Fine Art Gallery

    Mr. Bitts -- preservative-free baked goods

    My Chocolates -- mehadrin pareve Belgian chocolates

    Negev Home Foods -- Gourmet and traditional kosher foods, sent throughout continental United States via FedEx, including meals to vacation destinations. Call toll-free 1-800-834-NEGEV

    New York Flying Pizzas -- courier delivery of pizzas and rugalech

    The New York Smoked Fish Company (smoked fish certified kosher)

    Old Jerusalem Trading Company -- gift packages of  foodstuffs
    1-800-Buy-OJTC

    Old Santa Fe Company - Mail-order Mexican sauces and tortilla mixes: 800-662-4552

    Rokeach -- Online Kosher Food Market; recipes; electronic greeting cards

    Second Avenue Kosher Deli - Mail order [NOTE: Open on shabbat.]

    Star-K: hekhsher information (410) 484-4110; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    To Life Food and Herb Company -- organic food, herbs, and vitamins
     

    Kosher Restaurants and Travel

    Jewish Web - guides to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Miami

    KosherLink(TM) - kosher-restaurant database for the New York City metropolitan area

    Kosher Restaurant Database - searchable

    Kosher restaurants in the US

    Jewish TraveLinks -- for traveling kosher in the US
     
    Les différentes communautés juives de France -- French Jewish community home page, incl. kosher restaurants in Paris

    Local Eyes - tour guides; searchable for kosher restaurants
     

    Essays

    The Food Industry, Kosher Foods and Modern Technology - An Essay

    The Kosher Dietary Laws and Their Implementation in the Food Industry - An Essay

    Kosher Living - An Essay

    The Kosher Slaughterer - An Essay

    "Safe Treyf" -- about the Jewish love affair with Chinese food from the "Brandeis Review," Summer, 1996.

    Should a Modern Jew Keep Kosher - An Essay by Dennis Prager - Part 1

    Should a Modern Jew Keep Kosher - An Essay by Dennis Prager - Part 2


    Maintained by Ruth Heiges
    Revised: 6 November 1998