Kosher food refers to the food prepared in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws. These set of laws, called Kashrut, define what is fit or unfit to be eaten and how the food should be prepared. The word Kosher, which comes from the same root word, signifies the foods that meet these standards of cleanliness. Thus, kosher refers to the ingredients used and the method of preparation, rather than a particular dish. Kosher food can be prepared in any cuisine using the same dietary laws.
Dietary laws are followed by the Jews because the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, asks them to do so. These laws were laid out for the Israelites in ancient times. Israelites are the ancestors of the modern Jews. Although the Torah specifies no particular reason for these rules, the Jews consider it as a commandment from God and adhere to it by all means. It is believed that these laws help Jews to remain holy and exercise self-control at all times. It also help them distinguish between what is right and wrong.
Some of the dietary laws which are followed in Kosher food preparation are listed below.
Laws concerning animals and meat:
· The meat of certain animals, like camel and rabbit, are not kosher and forbidden to be eaten. This includes the flesh or any product of the non-kosher animal/bird, including its milk, milk products, and eggs.
· Animals which have cloven hooves and which chew their cud may be eaten. Thus, animals like cow, goat, sheep, lamb, and veal are fine to be eaten.
· Fish which have fins and scales may be eaten, but seafood like shrimps, lobsters, oysters, and clams are forbidden.
· Scavenger birds are not eaten, while chicken, duck, turkey, and geese are allowed.
· Reptiles, insects, amphibians are forbidden.
· Meat of any animal that is torn by another animal is not kosher. Also, the meat of any animal that dies on its own is forbidden. The animals should not be diseased and the organs should be free of defects at the time of slaughter.
· The other animals, which are allowed to be eaten, must be killed in a way prescribed by the Jewish law. The animals should be killed with a quick deep stroke. This method causes no pain and makes the animal to be unconscious in seconds.
· Blood of all animals is forbidden to be eaten. All blood must be drained completely before cooking the meat. Any blood remaining should be removed by broiling or soaking and salting.
Fruits and Vegetables:
All fruits and vegetables are good to be eaten, except those infested by bugs. Hence, if any fruit or vegetable is prone to bugs, it must be inspected carefully before being cooked.
Restrictions regarding Milk Products:
· Dairy products and meat (including poultry) should not be eaten together. Meat and fish should not be eaten together. However, fish and dairy can be consumed together.
· Even if a product contains very little milk, it is considered as a dairy product.
· Vessels in which a non-kosher food was kept hot should not be used to prepare kosher food.
· This signifies that separate vessels should be used for dairy and meat products too, and these must not be put together in a dishwasher, but should be cleaned separately.
Wine and Grapes:
Wine and grape juice prepared by non-Jews are forbidden. This includes even fruit drinks which may contain grape juice.
Some processed or canned foods, processed cheese, and gelatin are considered non-kosher due to some of the ingredients.
To make life easier for a Jew who is kosher, products with kosher certification are available in the market. This means that the particular product has been verified to be kosher by a rabbi or a reliable organization. A kosher certification is issued after examining the ingredients used, analyzing the way of food preparation, and inspecting the food production facilities. It is to be noted that kosher certification does not involve blessing of the food by a rabbi.
Health Benefits of Kosher Food
Kosher food is healthier than other foods. Consuming a kosher food keeps bacterial infections and other animal borne diseases at bay. These include diseases such as Escherichia coli infection and mad cow disease. Thus, kosher foods are becoming increasingly popular among non-Jews due to the fact they are made with safe ingredients and a clean method of cooking.
· It is said that the Kosher laws are three times stricter than the USDA rules.
· The Titanic ship had kosher facilities and a Hebrew cook, who took charge of the kosher food served in the ship.