Kosher Dietary Rules and Regulations
As it says in the German, Man ist was man isst! Man is what man eats. The word kosher is familiar and, at the same time, foreign. One may think of strict rules and religious regulations.
In Hebrew, “Kashrus,” from the root kosher (or “kasher”), means suitable and/or “pure”, thus ensuring fitness for consumption.
The laws of “Kashrus” include a comprehensive legislation concerning permitted and forbidden foods. There are several aspects to these dietary rules. We will consider each aspect in turn.
Meat and its derivatives
Kosher meat must comply with certain rules.
Kosher Species of Animals:
According to the laws of the Torah, the only types of meat that may be eaten are cattle and game that have “cloven hooves” and “chew the cud.” If an animal species fulfills only one of these conditions (for example the pig, which has split hooves but does not chew the cud, or the camel, which chews the cud, but does not have split hooves), then its meat may not be eaten.
Examples of kosher animals in this category are bulls, cows, sheep, lambs, goats, veal, and springbok.
According to the laws of the Torah, to be eaten, a kosher species must be slaughtered by a "Schochet," a ritual slaughterer. Since Jewish Law prohibits causing any pain to animals, the slaughtering has to be effected in such a way that unconsciousness is instantaneous and death occurs almost instantaneously.
Kashering (Removing the blood) & removing the veins and skin (‘Porschen’ or ‘Nikkur’):
After the animal is slaughtered, the Kosher Supervisor and his team treiber the carcass by removing certain forbidden fats and veins. After the meat has been treibered, it is soaked in a bath in room temperature water for a half hour. To draw out the blood, the soaked meat is then placed on special salting tables where it is salted with coarse salt on both sides for one hour.
Fowl / Poultry and their derivatives
Some birds may not be eaten. These include the eagle, owl, swan, pelican, vulture, and stork - as well as their brood and clutch of eggs (Lev. 11:13-20).
Only birds that are traditionally considered kosher, such as the goose, duck, chicken, and turkey, may be eaten.
Dairy Products and their derivatives
All kosher milk products must derive from kosher animals. In addition, the milk of impure cattle and game (e.g. donkey milk) is prohibited. Dairy products, of course, also may not contain non-kosher additives, and they may not include meat products or derivatives (for example, many types of cheese are manufactured with animal fats).
Additionally, a number of pre-processed foods contain small portions of milk products, such as whey. According to food product regulations, such tiny additives do not have to be declared on the packaging but may nevertheless render the product non-kosher. This applies especially to bread.
The prohibition of combining meat and milk
The Torah says: "You may not cook a young animal in the milk of its mother" (Ex.23:19). From this, it is derived that milk and meat products may not be mixed together. Not only may they not be cooked together, but they may not be served together on the same table and surely not eaten at the same time. This rule is scrupulously upheld in observant Jewish households, even in the handling of utensils, which are carefully separated into “fleishig” (meat) and “milchig” (dairy) and separately labeled. By strict observance of these laws, they become an everyday habit. After meat meals, one must wait one, three, or six hours – depending on one’s custom - before eating dairy. After dairy consumption, no interval is required before meat may be eaten.
The eggs of kosher birds are permitted as long as they do not contain blood. Therefore, eggs must be individually examined.
Only fish with fins and scales may be eaten, for instance, tuna, salmon, and herring. Shellfish such as shrimps, crabs, mussels, and lobsters are forbidden.
Fruits, vegetables, cereals
All products that grow in the soil or on plants, bushes, or trees are kosher. However, all insects and animals that have many legs or very short legs are not kosher. Consequently, vegetables, fruits and other products infested with such insects must be checked and the insects removed.
A vegetable prone to insect infestation (e.g. cauliflower) must be carefully examined.
Fruits and Green plants
Certain laws apply specifically to the planting and sowing of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Hybridization of different species: One may not sow two kinds of seeds on a field or in a vineyard. (Lev.19:19/ Dtn.22:19)
Forbidden fruit: Fruits from trees planted within the past three years may not be eaten. (Lev.19:23) New grain: Biblically, no new grain may be eaten, or bread baked from it, before one brings an “omer” of the first fruits of the harvest on the second day of Passover (Lev.23:14)
Gelatin, casein, and bull blood are inadmissible in the kosher wine-making process. Only the bacteria or kosher enzymes from the bowl may be used for fermentation. All devices and utensils used for the harvest or the processing of the grapes must be cleansed under supervision. Bottles may not be filled multiple times.
In addition, all processing steps must be implemented in agreement with the requirements of “Halacha” (Jewish Religious Law). For example, in the vineyard no other plants may be cross-bred with the grapes (because of the prohibition of hybridization).
Beverages manufactured from grape or grape-based derivatives may only be drunk if the grapes come from a kosher winery, prepared under strict Rabbinical Supervision.