Kosher Defined


Kosher means ‘proper’, referring to foods which are acceptable to be eaten by those of the Jewish faith who practice and observe certain dietary laws as prescribed in the Torah, the Old Testament. Such foods and food product derivative are said to fall under the laws of Kashrut. These laws come primarily from the Bible, with additional Rabbinical decrees which have been handed down through generations of time. Our purpose here however, is only to introduce the novice to a very general overview of these laws. What follows, are some of the basic laws of what is and is not considered to be kosher in the strictest sense of the term. This is only an overview. Particular questions regarding any foods should be discussed with Rabbi Ralbag or an associate of the Triangle , rabbinical scholars thoroughly knowledgeable in all the laws of Kashrut.

ANIMALS:Only the meat of certain animals are kosher. These animals can be identified as having split hooves and chewing their cud – animals such as cows and sheep. There are many kosher animals such as deer, buffalo and others, however ALL animals must be slaughtered in a very specific ritualistic manner to be certified as kosher. And only a trained professional called a “shochet” may perform the slaughter.
NOTE: All liver must be broiled before use in recipes, because of a prohibition against ingesting blood.

POULTRY AND OTHER FOWL: We know which birds are kosher by means of tradition. The Torah lists which birds are not kosher. However, we are not sure of the exact translation of some of these species from the original Hebraic text in which the Bible was written. Therefore, only birds known by tradition to be kosher are considered so. This includes chicken, duck, turkey, quail, Cornish hens, doves/pigeons, geese, and pheasant.
NOTE: Poultry and fowl are considered to be meat and thus prohibitions against mixing dairy products with them applies.
Also, birds must be slaughtered in a very specific ritualistic manner as with all meats to be certified as kosher. Again, only a trained professional called a “shochet” is permitted to perform the slaughter.
NOTE: All liver must be broiled before use in recipes, because of a prohibition against ingesting blood.

FISH: All fish with scales and fins are kosher – fish such as tuna, carp, whitefish and salmon are kosher.
All other seafood is NOT kosher such as all shellfish; shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, scallops, etc. and crustaceans (crabs, crayfish/crawfish, etc.). Also, scavengers “bottom-feeders” such as catfish & monkfish are not kosher.
NOTE: Kosher fish are not ritually killed.

FRUITS, VEGETABLES and GRAINS: All fruits, vegetables and grains are kosher. The one exception is with special laws pertaining to grape products. See below, WINES.

CHEESE: Although cheeses are dairy, some cheeses are not kosher if they are made with animal-origin rennet from a non-kosher animal.

INSECTS: All insects, crustaceans, shellfish, and other invertebrates are NEVER considered to be kosher. It is therefore necessary to be careful that vegetables are not infested with insects.

WINES: Rabbinical supervision is required over all wines and grape products. The reasoning for this stems from medieval times when wine was used by non-Jews in pagan rituals and libations. These rituals rendered those wines unfit for for consumption by Jewish people and these laws have held fast into modern times.
Because of this sacramental aspect of wine in Judaism, there are special laws governing all grape products and only those grape products which have proper supervision are considered to be kosher by observant Jews. This applies not only to grape wine but grape juice, grape jelly, vinegar, and all soft drinks that use white grape juice as a sweetener. It does not apply to fresh grapes or raisins.

PARVE: Fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits and grain may be produced and manufactured with either milk or meat products. Thus, oils such as vegetable oils and shortenings may be used with both milk and meat products.

PREPARATION: It is forbidden to eat or cook milk and meat together. Therefore, if any product includes both meat – even a kosher meat – and a dairy product in its ingredients it CAN NOT be kosher. However, in today’s highly sophisticated world of food technology many PARVE substitutes are available. It is also forbidden to use the same utensils that are used for manufacturing a non-kosher product for making a kosher product – unless the utensils or machinery are specially cleansed.
Again, this is just a basic overview of the laws of Kashrut and kosher foods. There is much more. Therefore, most foods that are manufactured must be produced under the reliable supervision of an organization such as Triangle K & Associates.