vi » Kosher General

What makes Kosher food - Kosher?

1. Food Sources
    The written Torah specifies which animals may be eaten and which may not:
Land mammals – Only those with cloven hooves and chew their cud. Cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison are kosher food sources. Pigs and rabbits are examples of prohibited species.
Sea life – Fish with fins and scales, such as tuna, salmon and herring may be eaten. Shellfish, such as lobsters, shrimp and clams, are all forbidden, as are eels, octopus, sharks, and whales.
Fowl – The Torah lists forbidden birds, all of which are birds of prey. All other birds would theoretically be permitted, but in practice, only familiarly used fowl, such as chicken, geese, ducks and turkeys are considered an unquestionably kosher source of fowl meat.
Rodents and insects – Virtually all are prohibited. (This rule obliges cleaning/checking some inherently kosher fresh produce – fruit and vegetables – for the presence of forbidden infestation.)
Any product derived from these forbidden animals, such as their milk, eggs or fat, also may not be eaten.
All unprocessed fruits and vegetables are kosher. However, certain varieties of fruits, vegetables and grains are prone to insect and must be inspected before use to avoid consumption of forbidden insects.
Once produce has been processed – cooked, parboiled, or even squeezed as juice – it can no longer be assumed kosher, because of the pitfalls presented by added ingredients or problematic equipment, as we shall discuss below.
2. Kosher preparation of meat
Even if an animal or fowl is of a permitted species, it will not be acceptable under Jewish law unless it is slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law. An animal that died of natural causes or was killed by other means may not be eaten.
Many intricacies go into the laws of shechita – kosher slaughtering. In any meat establishment, it is crucial that a person who is Rabbinically ordained and extremely knowledgeable in these laws be on site to insure that the highest standard of kashrus are maintained.
Once meat has been properly slaughtered, it must undergo a process known as kashering in order to drain it of blood, which the Torah prohibits for consumption. This entails soaking and salting or salting and broiling the meat. Liver may only be kashered by the broiling method, because it contains so much blood and many complex blood vessels. The kashering process must be completed with 72 hours after slaughtering and before the meat is frozen or ground.
3. Separation of meat and dairy
The Torah prohibits eating meat and dairy together.This separation includes not only the foods themselves, but also the cooking utensils, plates and flatware, dishwashers or dishpans, sponges and kitchen towels. Therefore, a kosher household will have two sets of pots, pans and dishes – one for meat and one for dairy (unless the family is vegetarian!).
Even a small amount of dairy/meat renders an item dairy/meat for these purposes.
All fruit, vegetables and grains may be eaten with meat or dairy.
4. Kosher utensils /equipment :
A utensil picks up the status of the food that is cooked in it – meat, dairy, neutral (pareve) or non-kosher.  In addition, the utensil transmits that status to the next food cooked or processed in it. A utensil may be rendered non-kosher by the mixture of meat and dairy. Generally, the status of foods is transmitted only in the presence of heat, hot spices, or prolonged contact.  Also, often disqualified utensils can be restored to a usable state by a utensil kashering process. These rules are complex and often require consultation with a competent Rabbi.
On an industrial level, when kosher products and non-kosher products are produced in the same plant, close rabbinical supervision is crucial to ensure separation of kosher equipment from the non-kosher counterpart, and, where relevant, to supervise thorough kashering of equipment between the non-kosher and kosher runs.
5. Kosher for Passover
The eight-day Jewish holiday of Passover, which occurs every year in the spring, (15th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar) marks the exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation. In addition to the widely celebrated Seder event on the first night, the holiday aspect of Passover is its special food requirements.
The food most identified with Passover is the brittle, unleavened cracker known as matzah which is eaten in place of bread. In fact, Passover is equally characterized by what may not be eaten. The special kosher requirements of Passover exclude all leavened grains, mixtures of grains or derivative products – all forms of "chometz" – from the Jewish Passover diet.
6. Kosher Certification then and now….
Then… - Just a century ago, mass produced foodstuffs were almost unheard of. Both individual households and large institutions purchased basic raw materials – produce, meat, flour, etc. – and prepared all their meals "from scratch." There were few kosher products to choose from. Materials were purchased fresh.
Now... – Today, the packaged products available on the market are too many to count. Almost all of these products raise questions regarding their kosher status.
Because of the myriad changes and advances in the food market, it has become an absolute necessity for food production facilities wishing to serve the kosher consumer to obtain certification from a reliable certifying agency. The role of kosher supervision is to check the source of all ingredients, provide for the kosher status of any equipment used to process the product, and to set up a system by which the integrity of both ingredients and equipment is maintained. The certification agency will also determine if the product contains dairy ingredients or is produced on equipment used for dairy products, to alert the consumer and preclude unintentional mixing of meat and dairy (forbidden by Jewish law). A quality certifying organization is staffed by Rabbinically ordained supervisors who have years of education and experience and are able to deal with questions and problems in the facility as they arise.
It is interesting to note, a significant sector of the market for kosher products is composed of people who are not interested in the kosher aspect at all. Kosher certification is a buying card for many Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists and vegetarians. People who are allergic to grain products stock up each year on the grain-free Kosher for Passover products available. In addition, many people prefer kosher products because they believe them to be cleaner, healthier or better than their non-kosher counterparts.