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Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Kosher Kitchen...Diet for the Soul

Have you ever thought about the meaning of eating Kosher Meals... If you were (or are) Jewish, there are strict rules that you must follow to eat Kosher. For example, meat and dairy never mix... that means you never have had a cheeseburger or a pepperoni pizza!

What is Kosher?
Kosher is a Hebrew word meaning "fit" or "proper". The kosher diet or way of living was a divine diet assigned by God over 3000 years ago. A lot of the kosher ways may not make sense, but God commanded it. It is all about spirituality and following God's commandments.

Kosher Basics
  • The meat, milk and eggs of certain species of animal are permitted for consumption, while others are forbidden. In addition, a series of laws govern how the animal should be killed and which parts of the animal can be eaten. 
  • Meat and milk are never combined. Separate utensils are used for each, and a waiting period is observed between eating them.The wait is usually 1-3 hours, but most wait 6 hours to be on the 'safe-side'. 
  • Fruits, vegetables and grains are basically always kosher, but must be insect free. Wine or grape juice, however, must be certified kosher. 
  • Since even a small trace of a non-kosher substance can render a food not kosher, all processed foods and eating establishments require certification by a reliable rabbi or kashrut supervision agency.
The Kosher Kitchen
It's not enough to buy only kosher food. The kitchen, too, must be "kosher," meaning that all cooking utensils and food preparation surfaces are used exclusively for kosher food, and that separate stoves, sinks, dishwashers, pots, cutlery, utensils, dishes, counter surfaces and table coverings are used for meat and dairy. Labels help to keep the sets separate. Parve is dedicated to foods and other kitchen materials neither meat or dairy.
Which Animals Are Kosher?
● A land animal is kosher if it has spilt hooves and chews its cud. It must have both kosher signs. Examples: cows, sheep, goats and deer are kosher, while pigs, rabbits, squirrels, bears, dogs, cats, camels and horses are not.

● Fowl: The Torah lists 24 non-kosher bird species -- basically all predatory and scavenger birds with grasping claws, such as eagles and hawks. Examples of kosher birds are the domestic species of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and pigeons.

● Fish & Seafood: A water creature is kosher only if it has fins and scales. Examples: salmon, tuna, pike, flounder, carp and herring are kosher, while catfish, sturgeon, swordfish, lobster, shellfish, crabs and all water mammals are not.

● All reptiles, amphibians, worms and insects -- with the exception of four types of locust -- are not kosher animals.

Milk & Eggs
A rule of thumb cited by the Talmud is: What comes from a kosher animal is kosher; what comes from a non-kosher animal is not kosher. Thus, only milk of kosher mammals is kosher. 

The same applies to eggs: only eggs laid by kosher birds are kosher. In addition, all eggs should be carefully examined before use to ensure that they are free of blood spots.

Honey is not considered an "animal product," so honey is kosher though bees are not.

Separating Meat and Dairy
Meat and milk are never combined. Separate utensils are used for each, and a waiting period is observed between eating them. 
The wait is usually 1-3 hours, but most wait 6 hours to be on the 'safe-side'. 

Kosher foods are thus divided into three categories:

  1. Meat includes the meat or bones of mammals and fowl, soups or gravies made with them, and any food containing even a small quantity of the above.
  2. Dairy includes the milk of any kosher animal, all milk products made with it (cream, butter, cheese, etc.), and any food containing even a small quantity of the above.
  3. Pareve foods are neither "meat" nor "dairy." Eggs are pareve, as are all fruits, vegetables and grains. Pareve foods can be mixed with and eaten together with either meat or dairy.
Determining that an animal is of a kosher species is just the first step. Further laws govern how the animal should be killed and which parts of it can be eaten.

Kosher mammals and birds are slaughtered by a special procedure called shechitah, in which the animal's throat is quickly, precisely and painlessly cut with a sharp, perfectly smooth knife (called a chalaf) by a shochet -- a highly trained, Torah-observant and God-fearing individual.
Fish do not require shechitah.

Inspection & Nikur
After the slaughtering, the internal organs of cattle and fowl are examined for potentially fatal diseases or injuries, such as adhesions in the lungs or holes in the stomach. The occurrence of any one of dozens of these defects renders the entire animal not kosher.

Nikur ("deveining") involves removing certain forbidden veins and fats from cattle. They are extremely prevalent in the hindquarters, and due to the complexity involved in their removal, this part of the animal is generally not sold as kosher.

Removing the Blood 

The blood of mammals and fowl is utterly forbidden for consumption by the Torah. Within 72 hours of slaughtering, all extractable blood is drained from the meat by a special soaking and salting process. (Today, most kosher meat is sold with the blood already removed.)

The liver, which has an especially high blood content, requires a special broiling process before it can be eaten.

Eggs are carefully examined before use to ensure that they are free of blood spots.

Fruits, Vegetables & Grains

Fruits, vegetables and grains are basically always kosher, but they must be insect free.
Wine or grape juice, however, must be certified kosher. (Because wine was used in the sacred service in the Holy Temple -- and because it can be defiled through its use in pagan rites -- Torah law requires that only wine produced by Torah-observant Jews be used.)

Produce grown in the Land of Israel has special kashrut requirements. "Tithes" must be separated before it can be eaten, fruit from the first three years following a tree's planting is unfit for consumption, and special laws govern the produce of the sabbatical year.

The 1/60th Rule
 Even a small trace of a non-kosher substance -- as little as 1/60th (1.66 percent) of the food's volume, and in certain cases, even less than that -- will render an otherwise kosher food not kosher. By the same token, utensils that come in contact with hot food will absorb its "taste" and subsequently impart it to other food.

For example, a loaf of bread baked in a pan smeared with shortening that contains a small percentage of lard, fruit juice pasteurized in the same machinery as non-kosher milk, or a vegetarian dish prepared in a restaurant kitchen with the same utensils in which a non-kosher dish was cooked earlier -- these would all be regarded as non-kosher if the proportion is greater than the permissible percentage.

It is for this reason that separate utensils are used for meat and milk, and that a reliable kosher certification is needed for foods processed or prepared outside the home.

 Foods that are neither meat nor dairy are called pareve. This means that they contain no meat or dairy derivatives, and have not been cooked or mixed with any meat or dairy foods.

Eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains, and juices in their natural, unprocessed state are common pareve foods. Other pareve foods include pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea, and many types of candy and snacks. Products that have been processed in any way should be bought only if they bear reliable kosher certification.

Although pareve foods present fewer kashrut complexities than either meat or dairy foods, certain points must be kept in mind:

Pareve foods may lose their pareve status if processed on dairy equipment or when additives are used. The label may give no indication of this processing. 

Chocolate, cookies and other snacks should not be used with meat or meaty foods unless they are certified pareve.

Certain fruits, vegetables and grains must be checked for the presence of small insects and larvae.

Eggs must be checked for the presence of blood spots.

A blessing is recited before and after eating, and the hands are ritually washed before partaking of bread. Food is accorded proper respect, and "one's table is similar to the Altar in the Holy Temple" -- for eating, too, is a way of serving God.

Different blessings are recited before eating different types of food. The blessing before the meal is
 "Blessed art Thou, our Lord our God, King of the Universe, by Whose word, All things existed.

All other blessings begin with the words, "Blessed art Thou, our Lord our God, King of the Universe...." We then continue:

For bread: "... who brings forth bread from the earth." (In addition, meals including bread are preceded with the ritual washing of the hands and the blessing "....who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us regarding the washing of the hands.")

For other foods made with grain: "....who creates types of food."

For wine: "....who creates the fruit of the vine."

For fruit: "....who creates the fruit of the tree."

For vegetables: "....who creates the fruit of the ground."

For everything else: " whose word everything came into being.

OK... Now for the recipe!

Chicken Soup with Kneidlach

Or for y'all Southern Folk... Chicken and Dumplin's
... told ya I'd find a Southern Twist!!!

3# chicken
6 cups water
2 medium onions-chopped
6 stalks of celery-chopped
4 large carrots-chopped
1 pinch or paprika
1 bunch of parsley-chopped
salt and pepper, to taste


1 1/2 cup matzo flour
1 cup cold water
3 eggs

Immerse chicken in boiling water and simmer,covered for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients and continue simmering for 45 minutes. Remove chicken and cool so you can handle. Remove bones and shred the meat.
Return as much meat as you like to the pot and refrigerate over night.

While chicken is cooking make kneidlach.

Knead all ingredients to a smooth dough. Cover and refrigerate over night.

The next day, bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil, roll dough into balls the size of ping pong balls and cook in the boiling water... Skim off fat from cooked chicken and heat up to serving temperature, add kneidlach and serve....

Click on this link to find out how to set up a Kosher Kitchen.

Click on this link to view a class taught by a Rabbi all about what it means to follow the Kosher Diet for the Soul.

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