Kosher. What? Why? How?

**Please click through to the Wikipedia links in {brackets} for more detailed explanations.**

I mentioned the other day that we were making our home {kosher}.  A few people asked why.  A few asked how it was done.  Paul is asking if I am crazy!

I grew up in a kosher home.  My mom’s parents were/are also kosher.

Paul did not grow up in a kosher home.

When we got married and moved into our house I suggested we make the house kosher.  We had more than enough space in the kitchen including two sinks (for meat and milk).  Paul wasn’t too keen and I didn’t NEED to be kosher so we left it.

Then we had kids and those kids go to a Jewish play school and a Jewish nursery school.  They are learning {yiddishkeit} and probably know more about Jewish customs and laws than I do.

Towards the end of last year Aaron started asking if we were kosher, if the food we ate was kosher and if not why not.  After some discussion we decided that it was time to make our home kosher.

Let me stop here and say that we didn’t do this JUST for the kids.  If we were not ready to make this huge change, as a family, we would have come up with a dozen reasons not to do it.  The truth is, this is just the right time to take this step.

So, what went into making our home kosher.

One of the most basic tenets of kashrut is {not mixing meat and milk}, you cant cook them together, eat them together, have them on the same plate or wash the dishes together.

So my darling mother got nagged to death until she relented and came over to the house and helped me sort out the kitchen.  She helped clear cupboards and shelves and sort out dishes and platters and plates and pots and pans.  Then she helped me repack everything back into their new shelves and cupboards.  Thank heavens we had enough kitchen stuff to separate pretty much everything out. I only had enough crockery for one set, so after the house was officially kashered I went to MrP and bought two sets of crockery, plates, side plates and bowls, 6 of each, a black set for milk and a white and red set for meat.

All glassware (glasses, bowls, platters) can be kashered by submerging them in a vat of water for three days (changing out the water every 24 hours).  A bathtub is useful here but not if you only have one tub and two children who wont shower.  A plastic basin also works.

 At this point our home is not kosher yet, we are going to start practising by separating the kitchen into milk and meat.

The next step was to remove any non kosher food products from the house and to start buying only kosher products and meat and chicken.

This is possibly the most expensive part of being or becoming kosher.  Kosher meat and chicken is far more expensive than regular meat or chicken, due partly to the nature of the slaughtering and also to the fact that there must be a {mashgiach} present who needs to be paid.

We practised keeping kosher for about six weeks and then came time to actually make the house kosher.  The wonderful {Kobie Cohen} came over one evening and spent about two and a half hours kashering the kitchen and the things in it.

He set up a really really large industrial urn, filled it up and left it to reach boiling.  While that was getting ready, Kobie filled his kettle and turned it on to boil as well as plugged in an iron to heat up.  Once the water was boiling he poured small amounts of the bubbling water over the counter tops and then ‘ironed’ the water.

Let me just tell you, if you ever want sparkling clean, brand new looking and feeling counter tops, this is the way to go.  I have melamine counters.  Kobie asked me to run my fingers over the surface before he poured the water and again once he had ironed the water and mopped it up.  The counters before were slightly bumpy, not quite sticky/tacky.  After, they were smooth and shiny.  So much built up dirt and grime gone in under 30 seconds!

Anyway, he continued around the kitchen and repeated the process on all the surfaces.  Then, since the large urn was still boiling up he moved onto the oven and stove.  This is where it got exciting!  He pulled out a blowtorch (the kids got a huge thrill out of this part) and proceeded to blowtorch the inside of the oven and the plates of the stove.  We had scrubbed the oven a day before Kobie came over to make sure it was squeaky clean.  You can tell if the oven is really clean by the colour of the blowtorch flame when it meets the surface of the oven.  Blue flame means clean, orange flame means there is some kind of substance that is burning away.  This also causes pretty sparks to fly around the oven, we had to re-clean it the next day to get rid of any ash.

Kobie also used the blowtorch on the sinks as well as using boiling water.

Now for the last part.  The large urn had boiled up by this time and we were ready to dip any metal utensils, hard plastics and other bits and bobs.  We filled up an old pillow case with the things for dipping and then using thick rubber gloves, Kobie dipped them into the boiling water and held it there for a minute of so.  We repeated this process, allowing the water to boil up between dipping each time.

By 22h30 that evening everything was done.  Kobie went home to his very understanding family (he does this in his spare time after he is finished with his day job) and I was left to repack the kitchen, which I HAD to do before going to bed, I just couldnt leave it for the morning.

So that’s it.  The whole shebang.  We now have a kosher home.

Its been quite the journey and a very steep learning curve for all of us but I am happy and content and I think so is my family.

17 Replies to “Kosher. What? Why? How?”

  1. This was so interesting to read! Thanks for writing it out for us.

    Okay, now more questions:
    – Do you have a separate fridge for meat and milk?
    – Won’t you miss lazagne?
    – I desperately want to order a cheese burger, am I evil?

    Congrats! And well done, honestly. Please blog more about being Jewish. Marrying into the religion and all, it’ll be fantastic to hear things from your perspective. We don’t know many Jews IRL sadly 🙁

    1. Haha Sheens you make me laugh!!

      I do not have separate fridges although I try to keep meat and milk stuff on separate shelves in the fridge. I also don’t have separate ovens, dishwashers or microwaves.

      There are wonderful non dairy alternatives out there. Orly Whip is awesome for desserts like ice cream. You can also make a non dairy bechemal (sp?) sauce for a lasagne and just leave out the cheese. Not quite the same but still yummy 🙂

      Cheese burgers always have me heartburn therefore the cheese burger is evil not you!

      You can always ask me anything about Jewdaism. I’m not an expert by any means but I’m happy to answer any questions from my personal perspective 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for the post, it’s really interesting!

    How kosher do you go – for eg I’ve heard of kosher clothing and linen? Or are there levels of kosher-ness?
    If your home is kosher, do you change the clothing you wear too? Do you start covering your hair?

    Apologies if the questions seem intrusive…but I’ve always wondered!

    1. There are as many ‘levels’ of kosher observance. Very very super religious people adhere to as many of the ‘rules’ as possible. Others not so much. A Rabbi once told me he would rather you do something, even if it’s not a lot, rather than nothing at all. The more comfortable you are with your kashrut the more intensely you can keep it.

      I personally don’t/won’t buy clothes according to kashrut laws. I will also eat out at a non kosher restaurant (although im thinking I will only eat vegetarian meals out and not meat or chicken).

      As far as covering my head. I try and wear a hat whenever I go to Shul/synagogue or if I go to a funeral or any other holy place. But I don’t intend to cover my head all the time. On that not I wear pants as well as skirts and I don’t mind wearing sleeveless tops.

      Also I have no issue with tattoos 😉

  3. Thanks Gina, for writing this out. We have a Jewish boss, who keeps (?) kosher and Shabbat and knowing what you wrote above, this makes us (my workwife and I) understand him better.

    It’s all very interesting. Slowly the Jews in our office are introducing us to all the yummy kosher food and things we wouldn’t normally know about 😀

    Happy Pesach to you and your family!


    1. Yup. ‘Keep’ kosher and Shabbat is the right term.

      There is nothing quite like Jewish cooking/food 🙂

      You will have to come to our house for a Shabbat dinner one day!

  4. You must have read my mind!
    When I saw a few tweets from you and Paul about it I was dying to ask why and how.
    What I wanted to ask – I thought of it as I read your post – do you have to go through the kasher process everytime you move? Like when Aaron and Faith move out of the house one day?

    1. Yup. With every new house you should kasher the kitchen. You don’t have to redo your crockery and cutlery because you know they are kosher but you don’t know what went on in the new kitchen 🙂

      1. Quick question on baking – does combining milk and eggs and butter count as a dairy-protein combination, like a cheeseburger?

        1. Nope it doesn’t.

          I started typing a whole explanation here in the comments but I think I am going to do another post rather as the answer is quite in depth 🙂

          I will let you know when it is up 🙂

  5. Hi Gina 🙂 A little late to find this, but I think it’s amazing what you’ve done! I know going kosher can really be a big business (and commitment). You’ve also just outlined it so well in this post, and didn’t put it across as “too” crazy 😉 (as sometimes I’m worried we come across). I hope you enjoy this new venture 🙂

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