Ever want to know if something is right, or Kosher? The word "kosher" is not only used for food, however. Kosher, according to WiseGeek.com, basically means that something follows all the Jewish legal guidelines. The word has even gained a place in American slang to mean appropriate, legitimate, or proper; instead of saying "that's not right," one might say "that's not kosher." Kosher food is food that meets Jewish dietary laws, or kashrut, which comes from the Hebrew word for "fit" or "proper." Any food can be called kosher food if it adheres to Jewish law, or halacha. Conversely, foods typically labeled as "Jewish" aren't necessarily kosher. Jewish foods are generally those dishes that are traditionally Jewish.
According to Jewfaq.org, contrary to popular misconception, rabbis or other religious officials do not "bless" food to make it kosher. There are blessings that observant Jews recite over food before eating it, but these blessings have nothing to do with making the food kosher. Food can be kosher without a rabbi or priest ever becoming involved with it: the vegetables from your garden are undoubtedly kosher (as long as they don't have any bugs, which are not kosher!). However, in the modern world of processed foods, it is difficult to know what ingredients are in your food and how they were processed. Therefore, it is helpful to have a rabbi examine the food and its processing and assure kosher consumers that the food is kosher. Much more detailed explanation of how to prepare kosher foods can be found at this website: http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm.
According to WiseGeek.com, Kosher food laws are rather extensive. Some are derived directly from the Bible and others through rabbinic interpretations over the years. Here are some of the laws governing kosher food:
--According to the Torah (also known as the five books of Moses, the Old Testament, or the Pentateuch) cloven hoofed, cud-chewing mammals are kosher. Deer, sheep and goats, for example are all kosher, while pig and rabbit, for example, are not.
--Only certain birds are considered kosher in the United States. This includes chicken, duck, goose, and turkey.
--Lobster lovers might be dismayed to find that for seafood or fish to be kosher, it must have fins and easily removable scales. Shellfish generally, and lobsters, shrimp, and clams, specifically are not kosher. Fish, on the other hand, such as tuna, carp, and herring, are kosher, but only if they are prepared by a kosher fish monger with kosher cutting implements and machines. --
There's more, according to WiseGeek.com. In most cases, scales must be present on the fish in order to be purchased by the consumer. Also:
--Fish and meat cannot be served together.
--Milk and meat cannot be served together. Rabbinic law includes poultry in this prohibition, however fish is excluded. This gives rise to the popular, and kosher, bagel, lox, and cream cheese combination.
--Processed food must be prepared in the presence of a rabbi.
--Poultry and meat must be slaughtered under strict guidelines called "shechita." This means the animals are slaughtered without pain. Only those who are trained and qualified are allowed to slaughter kosher animals. Once the animal is no longer alive, another team of experts will examine the animal to be sure the animal is without illness, abnormalities or anything else that can be considered unsanitary. The lungs in particular must be pure. In addition, all blood, nerves, and most fat must be removed.
--Kosher kitchens must maintain separate sets of utensils, pots, pans, dishes, and anything else that comes in contact with food. In addition, dishes and utensils in a kosher kitchen can't be washed together. If a kitchen has two sinks, it is an ideal setup for a kosher family. If not, separate wash buckets are often used. Dishes and utensils must be dried using separate racks or dishtowels as well.
The basic laws of Kashrus (a Hebrew word referring to kosher and its application) are of Biblical origin (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 17). For thousands of years, Rabbinic scholars have interpreted these laws and applied them to contemporary situations. In addition, Rabbinic bodies enacted protective legislation to safeguard the integrity of kosher laws, according to the Orthodox Union. Given the complex nature of the laws of kashrus, one should consult an Orthodox Rabbi whenever a kashrus issue arises. Though an ancillary hygienic benefit has been attributed to the observance of kashrus, the ultimate purpose and rationale is to conform to the Divine Will, as expressed in the Torah. Not too long ago, most food products were made in the family kitchen, or in a small factory or store in the local community. It was relatively easy to ascertain if the product was reliably kosher. If Rabbinical supervision was required, it was attended to by the rabbi of the community, who was known to all. Today, industrialization, transcontinental shipping and mass production have created a situation where most of the foods we eat are treated, processed, cooked, canned or boxed commercially in industrial settings, which can be located hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
What adds further complication is that it is generally not possible to judge the kosher status of an item on the basis of the information provided in the ingredient declaration for a variety of reasons, according to OU.org (Orthodox Union). First, the product may be made from kosher ingredients, but processed on non-kosher equipment. Second, the USDA does not require the listing of certain processing aids, such as pan liners and oils that serve as release agents. Though not legally classified as ingredients, these items could nonetheless render the product non-kosher. Third, many ingredients can be kosher or non-kosher, depending on their source of origin. For example, glycerin and emulsifiers are made from either vegetable or animal oils. Finally, many ingredients are listed only in broad terms, with no breakdown of the many complex components that make up the actual item. For example, a chocolate flavor may contain 50 ingredients, but the ingredient declaration will list this entire complex of ingredients as "flavors".Unless a person is an expert in food production, the average consumer cannot possibly make an evaluation of the kosher status, which is why it is important to purchase only those products that have the endorsement of a reliable kosher agency. More info for a kosher food primer is available at their site: http://www.ou.org/kosher/primer.html.
According to WhatsKosher.com, All around the world there are millions of individuals who only eat kosher food. Despite the large number of people who do eat it, there are even more who have no idea what kosher food is. Kosher food is often termed a Jewish food. Jewish followers are the most common kosher food consumers, but they are not the only ones. There are individuals who eat kosher food simply because the food is often considered better than traditional food. Jewish law is used to determine exactly what food is kosher and what is not.
If you are interested in ordering Kosher foods, there are plenty of websites available that offer high quality items to order, including the following and more:
Plus, the New York Times has a huge amount of information about kosher foods, found at: http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/k/kosher_foods/index.html.
In the grocery store you will find all sorts of foods labeled as Kosher, but the most common are Kosher hot dogs and Kosher pickles, according to HowStuffWorks.com. Heinz Ketchup has been Kosher for decades. You will often find a U with a circle around it on Kosher products. There is also the word Pareve or Parve on many foods, and this is a form of Kosher labeling as well. If you are interested in preparing kosher foods, more info can also be found at http://jewishrecipes.org/.
But interest in kosher food isn't limited to special seasons such as Passover, when the law says Jews should avoid all leavened foods, according to BeliefNet.com. Non-Jews with dietary restrictions and consumers who want more inspection of the foods they eat are among those looking year-round for the kosher seal of approval. Walk the aisles of a mainstream market, and you'll see kosher certification symbols on hundreds of products, ranging from salsa and wasabi to boxes of macaroni and cheese. They're evidence that kosher is second only to organic food when it comes to the fastest-growing food categories. About 2,000 products are added to the list of approved kosher foods each year, and the list already numbers more than 111,000. And, vegans and people who are intolerant of gluten or dairy are most likely to see a kosher symbol on products targeting their specialized diet. Passover foods, in particular, often are considered gluten-free.
Americans are snapping up kosher food products across the country, prompted by health concerns and a belief that kosher meats and poultry — prepared under strict Jewish dietary laws — are a safer choice amid fears of mad cow disease and bacterial contamination, according to SafeToRemember.com. Kosher laws are stricter than U.S. Department of Agriculture standards when it comes to the health of animals that can be eaten. The number of health-conscious consumers who seek out kosher products has been steadily rising. Because the U.S. Jewish population is holding steady, the kosher industry attributes the extra demand to buyers who are not motivated by religion but by health and food safety concerns.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.