Kosher Primer

A Kosher Primer

Here are some basic guidelines to help you plan a kosher meal.  Please note that these are general rules, not definitive—an Orthodox Jew is going to be much more strict about observing food laws, and this list would not be broad enough to include all of their special needs.

Certain meats may not be consumed. Forbidden meats include (but are not limited to): pork, rabbit, camel, shellfish, lobster, shrimp, crab, seafood without fins or scales (like swordfish and sturgeon), birds of prey, scavenger birds, tortoises, bats, snails, reptiles, rodents, and any animal that has died of natural causes.  I’m guessing you didn’t have rodents on your dinner menu, but thought I’d mention it anyway!  The restriction includes all parts of the animal, including eggs and milk produced by the animal.  So sorry, no snake eggs for breakfast.

Permitted animals must be ritually slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law in order to be considered kosher. An animal must have no diseases or flaws.  Certain parts of permitted animals are considered non-kosher, including the sciatic nerve and the fat surrounding animal organs.  Glatt kosher means that the lungs of the animal have been inspected for adhesions (i.e. cancer).  If no adhesions are found, that animal is designated glatt.  You can find kosher meats through most Middle Eastern markets or kosher butchers.  Some grocery store chains have started carrying kosher products as well.  Kosher meats have actually become more popular in recent years, due to the exacting standards that kosher slaughterhouses must adhere to in order to produce truly kosher meat.

Kosher meat must be rid of as much blood as possible. This one makes me squeamish!  However, it’s important to note that kosher meat is drained of as much blood as possible prior to cooking.  Kosher cooks will further kosher a cut of meat by salting it to draw out any leftover blood.  Kosher salt was invented for just this purpose.

Meat must not be eaten in combination with dairy. However, fish and/or eggs with dairy are permitted.  Some Sephardic traditions do not mix fish and dairy, but there is no Torah law forbidding the practice.  Kosher Jews will wait 3-6 hours between a dairy meal and a meat meal, in order to fully cleanse the system.  Dishes and utensils used for meat must not be used for dairy, and vice versa.

You may have noticed that some kosher foods are marked with the symbol Pareve. This means that the food contains neither meat nor dairy.  Pareve products can be paired with either meat or dairy—they are considered neutral.

Fruits and vegetables are considered kosher, but they must be inspected for insects. If any bugs are found inside of a fruit or vegetable, it is no longer considered kosher.  This includes food dyes and additives made from insects.

Grape products are not always considered kosher. Wine, grape juice, and other grape products can only be consumed if they’ve been manufactured under Jewish supervision—e.g. kosher wine.

To learn more about keeping kosher, check out these links:

Keeping Kosher:

A Kosher Primer

What Foods are Kosher for Passover?

Shiksa Recipes by Kosher Category:

Dairy Recipes

Meat Recipes

Pareve Recipes

Kosher for Ashkenazi Passover Recipes

Kosher for Sephardic Passover Recipes 

Recommended Books:

Kosher Nation

The Jewish Book of Why

 Choosing a Jewish Life

Comments (12)Post a Comment

  1. I am not Jewish, but I have a question. I would really like to make your brisket and yukon gold potatoes, but I would like to serve these for a Passover meal. Can the two be eaten together? Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Michelle– absolutely, both dishes are kosher for Passover. Just make sure that any pre-packaged ingredients you buy (like almond milk) are approved kosher for Passover. It should indicate this on the kosher hechsher on the packaging. Let me know how they turn out for you! :)

  2. Ok. So as long as I don’t use cow milk, I’m ok? Thanks for your help. I’m trying to start new traditions for our family and why not go back to our roots? :-) Blessings to you.

    1. Hi Michelle– It’s more involved than that, and really depends on how much you wish to bring kosher into your life. Somebody who keeps strictly kosher would separate all dairy and meat, and even have separate areas of the kitchen, dishes and utensils for preparing meat and dairy. You can, however, adopt certain aspects of kosher into your life without following all of the kosher laws. Many Jews today observe certain kosher laws, but not others. It really depends on your goals moving forward.

      If you want to learn more, I suggest reading the book Kosher Nation by Sue Fishkoff, which will give you a fantastic overview of what it means to keep kosher. It’s also a fun read! :)

    1. Hi Carol, I do not know the kosher status of that product. You would have to check with Hershey’s directly, or they may have the information on their website.

  3. Tori – Love you blog post. I just have one correction to make about insects in food. Technically as long as the fruit/vegetable isn’t cooked and you find a bug you can remove it and of course thoroughly wash the vegetable/fruit, you don’t have to consider the fruit/vegetable inedible unless it’s really infested.

    There are all sorts of rules about this one especially depending on the vegetable/fruit in question, and you may want to consult a rabbi for more information. For example parsley usually has a ton of little bugs in it so you have to wash it really well (three times) and inspect it before you use it. If after washing it multiple times and you still find bugs then you can’t eat it.

    Interestingly enough some species of locust are kosher, just not for Ashkenazim :-)

  4. Love your blog. Have been married to my jewish husband for 30 years and kosher cooking has been made easier by your recipes. thanks.

    1. Hi Lani, unfortunately I can’t provide additional information beyond what is available in this section of my website, since I do not keep a kosher kitchen myself. It would be best for you to speak with a local rabbi or kosher certification agency for more information.

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