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KOSHER BASICS Well over one million Jewish consumers keep a kosher home--observing Jewish dietary laws that have been passed down over thousands of years. Keeping kosher is an important part of the daily life of a Jew. Understanding the kosher basics will help you assure your observant employers or clients that their kosher practices will continue. Kosher means “fit and proper”. It does not mean food blessed by a rabbi. Although kosher rules might seem very complicated at first, putting them into practice is like anything else that takes getting used to---such as learning to drive a car. THE BIG THREE Foods can be grouped into three broad categories: Always acceptable as kosher. Includes raw fruits & vegetables that have not been further processed. Never kosher. The Bible prohibits certain foods for Jews, including: shellfish, fish without both fins & scales, & pork. Kosher supervised. These foods may be kosher when produced under the authority of a rabbi or kosher certification agency to ensure ingredients & food processing procedures meet kosher dietary requirements. In kosher products, all of the component ingredients are certified kosher, including any processing aids that contact the food. The production equipment must be kosher, too. Processed foods must be prepared under rabbinical supervision. To help the kosher consumer identify kosher foods, many certification agencies have put their trademarked symbols on their supervised products. These symbols include: THE BIG FOUR All kosher foods can be grouped into four further categories, as well. MEAT: Meat, fowl, and their byproducts (e.g. soup, bones, or gravy) are referred to as “fleishig” or “basar”. Kosher fowl and meat (from animals that chew their cud and have split hooves), must come from a kosher species, and be slaughtered by specially trained ritual slaughterers. Cows, sheep, goats, and chicken are in this category. DAIRY: This includes all foods derived from or containing milk, such as milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese. Even milk derivatives, such as casein and whey, are considered dairy when used in kosher foods. These foods are referred to as “milchig” or “chalav”. All dairy products require reliable kosher supervision. FISH: Kosher fish must have fins and easily removable scales. PAREVE: These neutral foods contain neither meat nor dairy, or their derivatives. They must also not have been prepared or processed with meat or dairy equipment. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, pasta, soft drinks, fish and eggs. Speaking of eggs, eggs must be checked for blood spots, prior to cooking them, by breaking them one at a time, into a glass. According to kosher laws, an egg containing a blood spot may not be eaten. Only boiled eggs are allowed to be eaten without checking for blood spots. Certain fruits, vegetables and grains must also be checked for the presence of small insects and larvae which would render them non-kosher. These include: Strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, dill, and parsley. In addition, Israeli produce is subject to special kosher rules. More on the subject of pareve: • Pareve foods can generally be served with either meat or dairy meals. • If a pareve food is cooked in a meat pot, it should only be served on meat dishes with meat serving utensils & cutlery. • If a pareve food is cooked in a dairy pot, it should only be served on dairy dishes with dairy serving utensils and cutlery. • If you cut a sharp & spicy pareve food (e.g., onions, garlic, lemons, and pickles) with a meat knife, it is considered as having a meat status and may not be used with dairy foods, and vice versa when it comes to cutting one of these pareve foods with a dairy knife. OTHER KOSHER RULES: Dairy & meat cannot be served together during the same meal. There is a waiting period (between 1-6 hours, according to custom) after eating meat before eating dairy, and after eating hard cheese before eating meat. Even though fish is pareve & may be eaten at both meat & dairy meals, at a meat meal it must be prepared and served with separate utensils. Fish may be eaten either before or after meat. SEPARATE BUT EQUAL • The kosher home has at least 2 sets of dishes, silverware, pots, pans, and utensils—one for meat, one for dairy. • They are kept in separate cabinets & drawers, marked meat and dairy. • There is often a color scheme in the kosher kitchen—e.g., red for meat, blue for dairy—to more easily tell all the meat & dairy items apart. Since meat & dairy must be kept separate throughout the kosher kitchen, this also applies to the sink, tables, countertops, refrigerators and freezers, the stove top, the oven and broiler, portable electric broilers, small appliances, and dishwashers. Many kosher homes also have some separate pareve dishes, silverware, pots, pans, and utensils. THE KITCHEN SINK IN THE KOSHER HOME • • • • The ideal situation in the kosher home is to have 2 separate sinks—one for meat, one for dairy—since these dishes & utensils cannot be washed together. If there is only one sink in which both meat & dairy dishes are washed, the inside of the sink is considered treif (nonkosher). Therefore, one set of dishes should be washed at a time, using separate dish pans atop slightly elevated meat & dairy racks. The sink should be scrubbed clean between washing each set of dishes. NO FOOD OR DISHES SHOULD BE PUT DIRECTLY INTO A SINK THAT IS USED TO WASH BOTH MEAT & DAIRY DISHES. Additional kitchen rules: • Dishes & utensils must be dried using separate racks or dishtowels. • Separate meat & dairy sponges, scouring pads (which require certification if they contain soap), and draining boards must be used. • Sponges & scouring pads used to clean a single sink must not be used on the dishes, silverware, pots, pans & utensils. The Kosher Table • A table can be used at different times for meat and dairy if different meat and dairy tablecloths or placemats are used. The Kosher Countertop • Different countertops or work areas are used for meat and dairy. Separate coverings must be used, if one area must be used for both.