July 17, 2009

It's all kosher

You might notice some new wording on some of the posts from now on, as well as a handy-dandy label list on the right side. I wanted to make this blog easier to navigate and I also wanted to highlight the kosher aspects of my cooking/baking. Here is the quick & dirty kosher breakdown. You can read all about kosher online if you want more information, like the reasoning behind it and what rabbis say, etc. This is the "What Beth Says" version.

Kosher are the Jewish dietary laws. I was raised in a kosher home and made the decisions as a teen to keep kosher outside of the house on my own. When I started living in apartments, I made them as kosher as I could (especially in Indiana!). Now that Alex and I have a home together, it's a kosher home, and while I keep kosher outside of the house, he does not. It's our compromise and it's been working well so far!

Within kashrut, food is pretty much divided into 4 categories: Meat, Dairy, Parve (pah-ruv), Treif (trayf).

Meat is anything that is...well...meat. In order for an animal to be considered kosher, they must meet (meat?) certain criteria. Mammals must have cloven hooves and 4 stomachs (goat, cow, sheep, deer) and fowl must not be a bird of prey (turkey, chicken, etc are fine). The animals are raised, killed, and prepared in a certain way that make them kosher. When I buy kosher meat, I usually buy Empire Chicken or get red meat from our local kosher butcher. Due to all the extra preparation that goes into kosher food, it is a lot more expensive.

Dairy is anything that contains dairy. Sounds simple, right? Not so much! Anyone with a milk allergy can tell you that just because a product looks milk-free, doesn't mean it is! Some things are obvious - cheese, yogurt, butter, etc. Others are sneaky - crackers, bread, soup, for example. There are a few ways I can check for this. Usually, I look for a certain kosher "label" on foods that will show me whether or not it contains dairy. Other times, I just go by the ingredient list. And then, in some instances, the product won't be dairy, and won't contain any dairy, BUT it will note that it's made on the same equipment as a milk product. This is a little murky in terms of actual kosher strictness, because technically something that isn't labeled as kosher isn't...um....kosher. For me, if it doesn't contain dairy and isn't made on dairy equipment, I'll use it, even without a kosher symbol.

Parve is neither a meat nor a dairy. It's neutral. Like fish (although some people think it's a meat) fruit, vegetables, eggs, beverages, etc.

Treif is non-kosher. Shellfish, pork products, animal gelatin, some other types of fish and mammals, as well as a whole other slew of foods.

Now, meat and dairy are never mixed. A meal is either meat or dairy, depending on what you serve. However, parve can be served with either. Chicken and vegetables is fine. Fish and cheese is fine. Fish and chicken - okay, if you're really hungry. If you go back and look through my blogged recipes, you'll notice that no meat dish ever has dairy in it. No chicken parm, no cheeseburgers. This also means that they can't share the same plates and cutlery, so we have two sets of everything in the kitchen. Plates, pans, pots, cooking utensils, potholders, sponges...etc. I need a lot of cabinet space :-)

So if I have just served you a delicious dinner of roast chicken and vegetables, I will have to serve you a parve dessert. I guess I could serve you a meat dessert, but wouldn't that just be gross. Kosher baking is an adventure. Technically, I could always just replace butter with margarine, but that too is gross. There are ways to alter recipes, but usually, all my baking is dairy except when I really need it to be parve.

Most recipes I find online can be tweaked. If it tells me to saute the onions in butter for a chicken dish, I'll use olive oil. If the beef needs to be simmered in heavy cream...well, then, it's probably not for me. This is why I haven't really joined any online cooking challenges. It's too hard to stay true to a challenge and keep the recipe kosher. Baking, though, I'm usually fine with. I hope you enjoyed my kosher breakdown and I apologize to any Members of the Tribe if I got anything wrong!

Here are some of the common kosher symbols on food


Mariel said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I thought fish gelatin was considered kosher. i think they make marshmallows out of it. Is that true?

Ms. Aliza said...Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great info! Your blog is my go to for when I need a kosher meal!

Hope all is well with you at the new office.