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6 Things You Might Not Know About Keeping Kosher

6 Things You Might Not Know About Keeping Kosher

"Kosher" is a Hebrew word that literally means "fit" or "proper." When used in relation to food, keeping kosher refers to dietary laws created for the Jewish people by the Torah Bible. These laws were intended to protect people from diseases and promote health through hygienic measures. While preparation and food hygiene has improved and is safer for people nowadays, keeping kosher forms part of the spiritual covenant Jews have with God. While there are many different levels of keeping kosher based on how observant each person is, the following answers some of the main principles in keeping kosher:

  1. Cooking or eating meat and dairy together is not allowed
    • This goes in hand with the Bible saying of "You shall not boil a kid (goat) in its mother's milk.” In most Kosher kitchens, you will see two sets of dishes, cooking utensils and flatware, dishwashers or dishpans, sponges and kitchen towels.
    • Since you can’t mix meat and cheese, you have to wait 3-6 hours after eating meat to eat dairy products. This relates to the difficult and unequal rate the body digests food.
    • "Neutral" foods such as vegetables or fruit, that have not been mixed or prepared with dairy or meat, are called “Pareve” foods.
       
  2. Not all animals are Kosher.
    • Only animals that have split hooves and chew their cuds are kosher (this means pigs are not kosher).
    • Insects are never kosher, so people take extra steps to wash vegetables and fruits.
    • Only fish that have both fins and scales are kosher (this means shellfish is not allowed).
    • Even while an animal is considered kosher, this animal has to be slaughtered with the least possible pain and salted a certain way to be kosher.
       
  3. Having a Rabbi bless food does not make the food kosher
    • It has to be supervised and certified-Rabbinic supervision of the production of food (a practice called hashgachah) enables it to carry a “seal of approval,” but it is not “blessed” by a rabbi.
        
  4. Wine, grape juice and other grape-derived products have to be Kosher
    • Although fresh grapes are kosher, these products must be produced by a Jew in order to be considered kosher since they are used for religious purposes.
       
  5. There are several hechsher symbols that indicate if the product is Kosher

     
    • ​​​​These are special certifications done by various rabbinic institutions that indicate a kosher food preparation and kosher product packaging.
    • There are additional hechsher symbols in different cities to allocate to local institutions.
    • The letter "K" by itself is generally an unreliable identifying mark since it often has no Rabbi or certifying organization backing up the company's claim to kosher status.
       
  6. Kosher cheese requires a hechsher symbol
    • Hard cheeses are often manufactured with an enzyme called rennet which frequently comes from animal sources. Cheeses that have kosher supervision are made with kosher rennet which comes from vegetable or microbial sources.

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