Keeping Kosher

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Once one is assured that all foodstuffs at hand are acceptable, kashrut considerations in food preparation revolve around two core issues: avoiding the consumption of blood (even of kosher animals), and keeping meat and milk foods separate.

smoked meatToday, kosher consumers generally need not be concerned with removing blood from meat. Vendors generally perform the salting and soaking required in order to extract blood from poultry, beef, or lamb. One exception is liver, which kashrut regulations deem impervious to the usual method of blood removal and thus may be eaten only if broiled. Nothing is done to remove blood from fish, whose flesh is not considered meat.

Aside from meat, only eggs are a potential source of blood, since they may be fertilized--an unlikely scenario in the age of factory farming, but this is a severe biblical prohibition. Once opened, raw eggs should be checked for blood spots, and those with spots must be discarded.

The rule that meat and milk foods may not be consumed together led to a requirement that separate sets of utensils be used in cooking and eating. Non-vegetarian kosher kitchens, then, have separate sets of pots and pans, cutlery and silverware, cutting boards, and storage containers--and, often, dish drains and towels. Many people use color-coding to mark which is which. In many cases, the use of a meat utensil for milk foods, or vice-versa, will render it unfit for use. But such errors are often correctable, and the utensil may often be rendered fit for use again.

The prohibition against consuming milk and meat foods together extends to a ban on consuming milk products after having eaten meat foods. Here, too, standards differ: Some wait only an hour and others as much as six hours, with many people falling somewhere in between those poles. However, after eating dairy products, Jewish law calls only for a negligible wait before consuming meat. Pareve foods are neither meat nor dairy, and can be eaten at any meal.

Eating in non-kosher restaurants or homes presents a challenge for kashrut observers. Some less stringently observant people relax their standards in these situations, eating, for instance, vegetarian but not meat meals in non-kosher places. Those maintaining stricter standards may employ disposable dishes and utensils and consume only simple foods such as salads or prepackaged kosher foods eaten cold or heated in doubly insulated containers.

Would-be hosts or guests in such situations should follow the rule that applies to all questions of kashrut: consult a rabbinic authority recognized by the people whose needs you wish to meet.

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