There are many misconceptions about what kosher foods are and what exactly makes them kosher. Contrary to popular belief, having a rabbi bless the food does not make it kosher.
Of land animals, only the ones that chew cud and have cloven hooves are considered kosher. Cattle, deer, bison, goat and sheep are all considered kosher. Pigs are not. When it comes to creatures of the sea, anything with fins and scales may be eaten, so seafood such as catfish, lobster, crab and shark are off limits. Shelled creatures such as clams and scallops aren't kosher. Scavenger birds or birds of prey are not kosher, but fowl such as geese, turkey, ducks and chicken are allowed. Milk, eggs, fat and organs from any forbidden animal are not considered kosher.
Animals that were killed by another animal or that died of natural causes may not be eaten. The animals must be killed according to strict rules. The person who does the slaughtering is called a shochet. The method for killing animals is considered the quickest, most painless and most humane way of slaughtering. It is done in a quick, even, deep cut across the throat with a very sharp blade.
Making Meat Kosher
All blood must be removed from the animal, because the Torah specifies that the soul is contained in the blood. Meat is made kosher by broiling, soaking or salting. The process must be completed within 72 hours of slaughtering and before the meat is ground or frozen. The sciatic nerve may not be eaten but it’s difficult to remove, so kosher slaughterers usually sell the hindquarters to nonkosher butchers.
Kosher Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are all kosher, but the bugs and worms that often get on these foods are not. All fruits and vegetables must be carefully inspected to ensure that no bugs or worms are on them before they can be considered kosher.
Separating Dairy and Meat
Meat and dairy products must be eaten separately and not combined in recipes or food products. There is a waiting period of three to six hours between eating one and then the other.
Utensils to cook and store food in must also be kosher. Pans for cooking meat may not be used to cook dairy foods. This does not apply to cold foods. The kosher status is only a problem in the presence of heat, passed from the food to the utensil or from the utensil to the food.
All products that have passed the inspection of a rabbi or organization will have a specific symbol on it, usually a letter K within a circle, star or other outer symbol. These are trademarks placed on food labels with the organization’s permission, showing that the food is kosher.
Other Kosher Rules
Although there are other rules that pertain to what makes a food kosher, some depending on the individual’s beliefs or the strictness of the rabbi or organization, the above rules are widely observed and most common.
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