Keeping Kosher: Almost a year down the line.

Yesterday on FB, Angel asked if our new Israeli apartment was {already kosher} when we moved in.  She remembered what a huge process it was when we initially decided to make our {home (in SA) kosher}.

First off, its been almost an entire year of keeping kosher.  Im so impressed with us.  Mostly its been easy, some days its been a challenge but all in all its been a fantastic journey so far.

Now, almost a year down the line, we are living in the State of Israel, the Jewish homeland. This definitely makes keeping kosher so much easier.

Firstly, no, apartments here are not automatically kosher, you still need to make the counters and sinks and ovens/stoves* kosher.  Even if the previous tenants were kosher. Rather safe than sorry.

As for buying kosher products, a large majority of stores/supermarkets/butchers in Israel are kosher.  There are a few stores that are not kosher and that sell non-kosher meats such as pork and shellfish which is also not kosher, and these stores are also usually open on a saturday (shabbat) while strictly kosher stores will be closed over shabbat.

For example, the {local supermarket} down the road from us is kosher.  They close on shabbat and all the products they carry are kosher.  This makes keeping kosher so much easier than in South Africa.  In SA there is one store that is strictly kosher, aptly named {Kosher World}, and quite a few of the big supermarkets like PnP and Woolies stock kosher items (sometimes in specific kosher sections) but you have to check each item to make sure it is a kosher product.  There are also a few strictly kosher {delis}, {restaurants} and {butchers}, mostly in Jozi.  But the percentage of kosher to non kosher items/stores/places to eat is not in your favour.

On the subject of kosher butcheries, in SA, kosher meat is very expensive, especially kosher chicken.  Here, since everything is kosher, I don’t seem to notice the price as much, it is what it is, except to say that beef is way more expensive than chicken.  This is because 99% of beef is imported into Israel, cows in Israel are pretty much dairy cows (as an aside, dairy in Israel is UNBELIEVABLE! Cheese, cheese, cheese, all the yummy cheese!).

Chickens here are cheap and huge and yummy.  I bought a whole chicken to roast last night, 1.8kg for about ₪32.  Thats R96.  The same kosher chicken in SA would be on average R135.  I spiced it with salt and pepper and roasted it for an hour and a half, it literally fell off the bone and it was so yummy!

I cant wait for our first {Pesach}, stores here will only stock items that are kosher for Pesach, everything else will be removed from the store or covered up, so you know that if it is on the shelves you can eat it.  I’ve also been told that the bakeries here make the most amazing rolls and breads that are totally pesadik (kosher for Pesach) and that you cannot even tell that they don’t have yeast and flour and other non pesadik ingredients.

Oh, Angel mentioned my cutlery and crockery.  Since all that stuff was already made kosher last year, we don’t have to make it kosher again.  Once our lift arrives (its actually on the water, finally, and should arrive at the end of March) we can just unpack everything into the kitchen.

So, do you have any questions? Please ask in the comments and I will try my best to answer them.

*Most apartments in Israel do not come with a stove/oven included in the rent.  You usually buy your own and take it with you when you move.  Our landlords were very nice and bought a brand new oven/stove unit and included it in the rent.  Of course this means if we ever leave this apartment we would have to buy a new unit or possibly buy this unit from our landlords.

Meat, Milk, Parev?

{Angel} asked a pretty interesting question on my {previous post about kashrut}.

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

To answer this you first need to understand the definition of ‘milk’, ‘meat’ and ‘parev’.  I have taken the definitions from {}.  You also have to understand why we do not mix meat and milk in kashrut.

Why we don’t eat meat and milk together?

This dietary law is based on two verses in the Book of Exodus, which forbids “boiling a (kid) goat in its mother’s milk”.(Exodus 23:19 and Exodus 34:26) This prohibition is repeated in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 14:21).

Milk (Dairy or milchig)

All foods derived from or containing milk are considered dairy, or milchig (Yiddish). This includes milk, butter, yoghurt and all cheese — hard, soft and cream. Even a small amount of dairy in a food can cause the food to be considered dairy.

Meat (fleishig)

The category of meat includes meat, fowl and their by-products, such as bones, soup or gravy. Any food made with meat or fowl, or with meat or fowl products, is considered fleishig (Yiddish). Even a small amount of meat in a food can cause it to be fleishig. 

*Note that meat is considered protein by dieticians, but so are nuts, legumes, seeds and tofu which fall into the parev category.  

Parev (neutral) 

Foods that are neither meat nor dairy are called pareve. This means that they contain no meat or dairy derivatives, and have not been cooked or mixed with any meat or dairy foods.

Eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains, and juices in their natural, unprocessed state are common pareve foods. Other pareve foods include pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea.

Chicken is meat, why are chicken eggs parev?

The prohibition mentioned in the Torah is to not mix meat (beef) with milk. This law was eventually extended to include fowl (chicken) as its meat can be confused with beef.

Eggs do not fall into this category as they cannot be mistaken for meat.

We also eat eggs before they have been fertilised and start to become chickens.  Therefore they are not a living creature.

So, to answer your question Angel, the cheese burger is forbidden because you are mixing a milk product, the cheese, with a meat product, the burger patty.  We are not looking at it as a dairy/protein issue, but rather as a milk/meat issue.   Since eggs are not considered meat, mixing them with milk in baking is allowed.

On that note though, if you made rolls with milk in them, you couldn’t use them as burger rolls since you would then be mixing milk, the rolls, with meat, the burger patty.

I hope this very long winded post has answered your question 🙂

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.