Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Israel's Post-War Food Industry

Israel’s Food Industry Returns to Normal
(Jerusalem) by Idele Ross and KosherToday Staff Reporters... With the ceasefire in place, food factories and businesses in the north of the country hard hit by the month long conflict with Hezbollah try to get back to business as usual. Dozens of the hundreds of katyusha rockets which fell in the north of the country slammed into factories, including such well-known facilities like Strauss-Elite and Unilever, and in orchards and fruit groves. Supermarkets and shopping malls have reopened in Haifa and the western Galilee, but northern Galilee businesses will require more time.

Although KosherToday has reported the War stories of some of Israel’s largest food companies, many smaller manufacturers and importers were also part of the heroics to maintain production and export despite the hostilities. According to Simon Norman of Pikante USA, a five year-old importer of Israeli salads, keeping the supply to US retailers during the war “was very challenging.” He noted: “Despite the war, we made a tremendous effort to keep the flow of 'Pikante salads' to the USA.”

Major supermarket chains never closed completely, shutting down only when ordered to do so by the IDF Homefront Command or when the sirens went off. Supersol is reporting dramatic increases in sales, according to Ynet Internet News. McDonald's had closed its 20 branches in the north but the company has reopened them all. The Israel Manufacturers Association (IMA)is launching a campaign to boost sales of products made in northern Israel. They are asking all media outlets and advertising agencies to come forth and volunteer their time and efforts for the campaign which will focus on both products and tourism, the latter of which has faced massive cancellations in the wake of the Hezbollah bombings of the north.

Liora Birnback Marcus, Director of the IMA in the north said that the factories and plants in the north produce quality goods and she sees this as an opportunity to showcase those businesses to the wider Israeli public. Teva Pharmaceuticals has announced that thousands of its employees and their families will be offered holiday packages in the north in the framework of their annual vacations. The deal drawn up with tourism authorities in the north will offer a list of options to the employees who will be able to take advantage of the deals between spring and summer of 2007.

Despite all the positive efforts to rehabilitate the north, the IMA reports a decline in new orders and in reorders from both local and overseas customers. Globes business news reports that a survey carried out by the Association indicates that 48% of the factories in the north lost new orders during the month long conflict.

Some 30 factories producing food products, textiles, electrical goods, high tech, building supplies and chemicals were polled. 27% reported that their clients from Israel and from abroad did not place new orders.

Perhaps the biggest miracle of the post War days is that the fears that the hostilities would damage the new harvest did not materialize. "It came just in time. It really is quite miraculous," said Alex Haruni, 40-year-old owner of the Dalton Winery in upper Galilee. The harvest began on Aug 16 -- two days after the guns fell silent following a conflict in which Israeli troops pushed into southern Lebanon and Hezbollah rockets rained on northern Israel. Israel produces about 30 million bottles of wine a year, and the government hopes to increase exports to $15 million a year over the next three years. In June, Israel held its first international wine expo with the hope of overseas growth.
-Kosher Today

Israel's Post-War Food Industry

Israel’s Food Industry Returns to Normal
(Jerusalem) by Idele Ross and KosherToday Staff Reporters... With the ceasefire in place, food factories and businesses in the north of the country hard hit by the month long conflict with Hezbollah try to get back to business as usual. Dozens of the hundreds of katyusha rockets which fell in the north of the country slammed into factories, including such well-known facilities like Strauss-Elite and Unilever, and in orchards and fruit groves. Supermarkets and shopping malls have reopened in Haifa and the western Galilee, but northern Galilee businesses will require more time.

Although KosherToday has reported the War stories of some of Israel’s largest food companies, many smaller manufacturers and importers were also part of the heroics to maintain production and export despite the hostilities. According to Simon Norman of Pikante USA, a five year-old importer of Israeli salads, keeping the supply to US retailers during the war “was very challenging.” He noted: “Despite the war, we made a tremendous effort to keep the flow of 'Pikante salads' to the USA.”

Major supermarket chains never closed completely, shutting down only when ordered to do so by the IDF Homefront Command or when the sirens went off. Supersol is reporting dramatic increases in sales, according to Ynet Internet News. McDonald's had closed its 20 branches in the north but the company has reopened them all. The Israel Manufacturers Association (IMA)is launching a campaign to boost sales of products made in northern Israel. They are asking all media outlets and advertising agencies to come forth and volunteer their time and efforts for the campaign which will focus on both products and tourism, the latter of which has faced massive cancellations in the wake of the Hezbollah bombings of the north.

Liora Birnback Marcus, Director of the IMA in the north said that the factories and plants in the north produce quality goods and she sees this as an opportunity to showcase those businesses to the wider Israeli public. Teva Pharmaceuticals has announced that thousands of its employees and their families will be offered holiday packages in the north in the framework of their annual vacations. The deal drawn up with tourism authorities in the north will offer a list of options to the employees who will be able to take advantage of the deals between spring and summer of 2007.

Despite all the positive efforts to rehabilitate the north, the IMA reports a decline in new orders and in reorders from both local and overseas customers. Globes business news reports that a survey carried out by the Association indicates that 48% of the factories in the north lost new orders during the month long conflict.

Some 30 factories producing food products, textiles, electrical goods, high tech, building supplies and chemicals were polled. 27% reported that their clients from Israel and from abroad did not place new orders.

Perhaps the biggest miracle of the post War days is that the fears that the hostilities would damage the new harvest did not materialize. "It came just in time. It really is quite miraculous," said Alex Haruni, 40-year-old owner of the Dalton Winery in upper Galilee. The harvest began on Aug 16 -- two days after the guns fell silent following a conflict in which Israeli troops pushed into southern Lebanon and Hezbollah rockets rained on northern Israel. Israel produces about 30 million bottles of wine a year, and the government hopes to increase exports to $15 million a year over the next three years. In June, Israel held its first international wine expo with the hope of overseas growth.
-Kosher Today

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jews & Chinese...the connections never end

China the Latest Lucrative Market for Kosher Certification Agencies
(New York)
Nearly half of the new kosher certifications issued to industrial plants by the Star-K in Baltimore (Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2006) were in China. The number of industrial plants in China under kosher supervision may be approaching 1,000. The plants produce a variety of ingredient items, including soy, food coloring, spices, seasoning, oils, cellulose, vitamins, supplements & nutritionals, and industrial chemicals. Other kosher certification agencies, namely the Orthodox Union (OU) and the OK Kosher Certification have also been certifying plants in China in record numbers. The rush to become kosher, industry officials say, is due in large measure to the requirement by most American food manufacturers for kosher certified ingredients as they look to Chinese manufacturers for cheaper sources. Although China is clearly the “most active,” as one kashrus official puts it, the agencies are also certifying more plants in such countries as India, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other countries in Southeast Asia. According to kashrus officials, more than two-thirds of all ingredients reaching US food manufacturers, or $350 billion, is kosher certified. To meet the growing demand overseas, the agencies are scrambling to find rabbinic supervisors who are willing to travel to these locations. In some cases, agencies are said to cooperate and share rabbinic supervisors.

Kosher Today

Monday, May 01, 2006

Non-Jews Buy Kosher Too!

B"H

Non Jews Buy Kosher: So What Else is New?

(Cincinnati)
When the Enquirer recently published a story that many non-Jews buy kosher in the city, it really was not news to those who have been following kosher over the past two decades. In the past year alone, studies like Mintel and other industry reports confirmed the broad appeal of kosher, well beyond the core group of people who observe kashrus. It was no secret to many in the food industry, for example, that many non-Jews bought Matzos and macaroons on the eve of Passover, and not only because some non Jews participated in a Seder. Some non-Jews like the products while others think of the Matzoh as a healthy alternative to breads. Several supermarket executives in the city interviewed by the Enquirer confirmed that they sell a good deal of their kosher fare to non-Jews. “Most of the growth in kosher food is coming from non-Jews,” said one. “A lot of people in general have the idea that kosher food is healthier, safer, more strictly inspected," says another. "Vegetarians buy kosher and people with allergies and food intolerances are interested in kosher products," says Gladys Blatt, owner of Bilker's, a kosher market in Blue Ash. “And, with thousands of items to choose from in both mainstream and specialty stores, it's a good time to explore the kosher possibilities,” advises the daily.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Making Your Kitchen Kosher for Passover

Preparing the Kitchen

Every part of our homes is cleaned for Passover, but we pay special attention to the kitchen because a) that's where most of our chametz hangs out during the year and b) we will actually be using our kitchens to prepare our Passover food.

Dishes and Utensils

Today, most Passover savvy homes have a special set of dishes, silverware, pots, pans and other utensils for Passover use only. If necessary, certain year-round utensils can be used—provided they are koshered for Passover. This gets rather complex—you’ll need to consult a competent rabbi about your particular utensils, but you can click here for the basic koshering procedures.

Stove

Thoroughly clean and scour every part of the stove. Heat the oven to the highest temperature possible for 1-2 hours. Heat the grates and the iron parts of the stove (and elements if electric) until they are red-hot. It suggested that the oven and the stove top should be covered with aluminum foil afterwards.

Microwave Ovens

Clean the oven thoroughly. Fill a completely clean container, that was not used for 24 hours, with water. Turn on the microwave and let it steam heavily. Turn it off and wipe out the inside.

To use the microwave during Passover, use a flat piece of styrofoam of any other thick object as a separation between the bottom of the oven and the cooking dish. When cooking , the food should be covered on all sides.

Sink

Meticulously clean the sink. For 24 hours before koshering it, do not pour hot water from chametz pots into it. Afterwards, boil water in a clean pot which was not used for 24 hours, and pour it three times onto every part of the sink, including the drain stopper. Afterwards line the sink.

Refrigerator, Freezer, Cupboards, Closets, Tables and Counters

Thoroughly clean and scrub them to remove any crumbs and residue. Afterwards, cover those surfaces that come into contact with hot food or utensils with a heavy covering.

Tablecloths and Napkins

Launder without starch.

Cars, Garages etc.

Vacuum your car or van; thoroughly clean your basement, garage or any property you own. Special care should be taken with items you will be using, or rooms you will be accessing during Passover.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kosher for Passover Fish Recipe

B"H

Pickled Fish


* 2 large carrots, julienned

* 1-1/2 cups julienned chayote or zucchini

* 2 pounds firm white fish steaks

* Salt, pepper

* 2/3 cup olive oil plus some for frying

* 2/3 cup dry white wine

* 2/3 cup vinegar

* 4 cloves garlic, minced

* 2 bay leaves

* 1 large onion, peeled, halved, thinly sliced

* 1 EACH green and red bell peppers, sliced in thin rings

* 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives

In medium saucepan, cook carrots in boiling salted water just until tender. Remove with slotted spoon to ice water. Repeat with chayote or zucchini. Remove vegetables and set aside.

Rinse fish; pat dry. Season. In large skillet, heat a little oil over medium-high heat. Fry fish until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

In medium bowl, whisk together wine, vinegar, and 2/3 cup olive oil. Stir in garlic and bay leaves. In crock or deep bowl, layer fish, onion, bell peppers, olives, carrots, and chayote. Repeat layers, adding marinade. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 24 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kosher Collaboration

Kashrus Agencies Move Towards Increased Information Sharing
(New York)
A rapidly changing food industry and increased demand for kosher foods has prompted leaders of kosher certification agencies to take steps to share information on kashrus. The agencies agreed to designate the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) as the “clearinghouse” for all information at an executive session of the kashrus organization held at the headquarters of the Orthodox Union last week. The information would include changes in technology, unauthorized uses of symbols, new ingredient items, and developments affecting the kosher status of products. According to Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, executive director of AKO, the organization has 65 dues-paying members, including all of the large kosher certification agencies. AKO’s Executive Committee consists of Rabbis Menachem Genack and Moshe Elefant (OU), Saul Emanuel (MK), Sholem Fishbane (CRC), Glick (Hisachdus), Don Yoel Levy (OK), Avram Pollack (Star-K), Ari Senter (Kof-K) and Avrohom Teichman (LA). In addition to the information sharing, other topics discussed at the Executive Committee meeting were kosher certification issues in China, payment of foodservice mashgichim, proper communication when companies switch to another agency, and European hashgachos. Several committees were formed including a very important “bedikas tolayim” (inspection of produce for insects) committee.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Kosher Milk 102

B"H


The Making of Chalav Yisroel (Part 2)

Still, other milk is processed into powder, and here we will encounter issues that relate to chalav Yisrael.

In our previous article, we outlined the proper procedures for chalav Yisrael production on a farm. We discussed the rigid guidelines that the OK employs to insure that the milking, storage, and trucking are performed with Jewish oversight (“Down on the Farm: The Making of Chalav Yisrael,” April).

What happens after the milk has been sent from the farm to the dairy? Some of the milk is bottled fresh, to be sent to your local store. The milk is homogenized and pasteurized. The former is a cold process, and so no kashering is necessary if chalav stam was produced on the equipment. However, the OK insists upon kashering anyway. Pasteurization is, of course, a hot process, and the pasteurizer must be kosherized before it is used for chalav Yisrael. We will discuss pasteurization later in this article.

Other milk is processed into powder, and here we do have issues that concern chalav Yisrael. There are two kinds of milk powder: whole milk powder and skim milk powder. Whole powder is made from milk that is dried without removing any fat from it. This powder, also called full milk powder, contains approximately twenty-six percent fat. (Occasionally this powder is produced with added milk fat.) To produce skim milk powder, the fat is first removed from the milk; only the remainder is dried. Skim milk powder has a minimal amount of fat, or no fat at all.

Fat is removed from milk with a centrifuge. This ingenious device, invented in 1883 by Carl G.P. de Laval, a Swedish engineer, uses centrifugal force to spin the milk so that the cream, which is its heaviest part, sinks to the bottom. This equipment is usually not hot; it needs only a thorough cleaning from its previous chalav stam use to make it suitable for chalav Yisrael. (However, we do kosherize it.)

The removed fat does not go to waste. It is used to produce cream products such as sweet cream or sour cream, and can also be used in products such as cream cheese. This fat is also used to make butter and butter products such as butter oil (which we discussed at length in our June 1999 issue).

Kashering a Pasteurizer

When the milk arrives at the dairy from the farm, it is put into huge storage tanks. We mentioned in our previous article that such tanks sometimes store the milk for more than twenty-four hours. Therefore, they are considered kavush, and they must be kosherized. To circumvent this problem, the OK has pioneered a system to rotate the milk between tanks, so that it does not stay in any one tank for twenty-four consecutive hours.

The next piece of equipment to be used is the pasteurizer. Here the milk is heated to approximately 160° Fahrenheit. According to halachah, a utensil in which a liquid was cooked has to be kosherized using boiling water. Many of our readers have kashered a pot in their kitchen, by cooking water in it until it boils over.

However, koshering a pasteurizer is not simple, for we are presented with a unique challenge. A pasteurizer operates as a closed system. We cannot see inside when the pasteurizer is working, meaning that we cannot see the water boiling. The accepted practice among kashrus agencies is to rely upon a thermometer to measure the heat of the water.

At sea level, water boils at 212° Fahrenheit. At a higher altitude, where the air pressure is lower, water boils at a lower temperature. Some dairies are reluctant to bring the pasteurizer to a temperature of 212°, fearing that this will ruin their equipment. We are pleased that the OK’s capable staff has demonstrated to these companies that we can safely kasher a pasteurizer at boiling temperature.

Very recently we produced chalav Yisrael milk in France at a factory that initially was reluctant to permit 212° kashering. The benefit of a global kashrus presence was soon demonstrated. Rabbi Shimon Lasker, who is the OK’s European representative, contacted OK Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Yitzchak Ort of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to obtain details for the proper, safe kashering procedure. (Rabbi Ort’s expertise in dairy kosher production has long been acknowledged among kashrus agencies and within the dairy industry.)

In the past we discussed this issue at length (see “How Halachah Meets Technology,” Feb. 1996). We mentioned that some kashrus agencies tend to be lenient in kashering a pasteurizer, asserting that it is impossible to get the pasteurizer to such a high temperature without causing damage. We fail to understand the basis for this leniency, and we are pleased that at its convention in May, another large organization raised its standards to insist upon kosherizing at 212° Fahrenheit. The OK remains the leader in insisting upon this standard, and we repeat the offer we have made in the past to demonstrate our technique to any company or kashrus agency that wishes to implement it.

Condensation and Drying

All milk, whether liquid or powder, is pasteurized. After pasteurization, two steps are necessary to create powder: the milk must be condensed, and it must be dried.

The condenser is a vessel that removes water from the milk via a vacuum, and it is kashered with boiling water. Interestingly, water will boil in a vacuum at less that 212° Fahrenheit, because the vacuum environment reflects a lower level of air pressure, similar to a high-altitude environment. I asked the great halachic authority Rabbi Zalman Shimon Dvorkin, of blessed memory, whether halachah requires that the water in a vacuum reach 212°. He responded that the Code of Jewish Law does not stipulate a specific temperature; it says only that the water must boil. Therefore, we do not require 212° in a condenser.

The milk then goes to be dried. There are two methods of drying the milk. One is a spray dryer, which is a large, inverted cone. The milk is sprayed in from the top and receives a blast of hot water. The water immediately evaporates. In many plants these spray dryers are used for a variety of non-kosher items along with milk. For example, we found a dairy in Switzerland where non-kosher items were being dried on the same equipment used for drying milk. Of course this poses a problem for chalav Yisrael production, but it poses the same problem even for people who use non-chalav Yisrael milk powder.

Spray dryers may be small, or they may be as tall as a six-story building; the latter are particularly difficult to kosherize. Nonetheless, we thoroughly kasher these with boiling water. At some large plants, companies run simultaneous productions of chalav Yisrael and non-chalav Yisrael. In a recent production, we arranged to separate these runs, in order to avoid a mix-up. Before the chalav Yisrael run had ended, the company started to run chalav stam. We rejected the entire one-ton production.

Another way to dry the milk is by using a roller dryer. The milk is sprayed onto a heated roller, which then dries the milk. The milk dried on the roller obtains a caramelized taste, a quality that chocolate producers prefer.

A roller dryer is heated using either regular water or water that was removed from milk in the condenser. While we generally assume that water is kosher, if the water has been used to heat non-kosher ingredients, it may be rendered not kosher. We therefore must ascertain that kosher water is being used to heat the roller dryer. Condensate — water that was removed from non-chalav Yisrael milk by a condenser — also should not be used to heat the roller dryer.

Another matter of concern is the percent of milk powder produced from the chalav Yisrael milk trucked in from the farm. Only six to ten percent of milk powder can be obtained from milk. For example, 100 gallons of milk can be condensed and dried to yield one-tenth to one-seventeenth that volume of milk powder (the former figure for whole milk, the latter for skim milk). Therefore, the supervising rabbi has to verify exactly how much milk was obtained from the farms. If the amount of milk powder produced exceeds this ratio, it would mean that the dairy has slipped in chalav stam, and the entire production would be disallowed for chalav Yisrael.

As we can see, chalav Yisrael production is no simple matter. The OK is blessed with a number of experts in all phases of the process, and consumers can purchase OK-certified chalav Yisrael products with confidence that they were made with complete fidelity to the laws of kashrus.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Kosher Milk 101

B"H


The Making of Chalav Yisroel


For many centuries, there was absolutely no question that the milk in a Jewish home was chalav Yisrael.

Milk is a staple of the American diet. While the relative health merits of milk are the subject of hot debate today, most households keep a generous supply on hand.

Milk coming from a kosher animal is inherently kosher. Nonetheless, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 115:1) rules that a Jew may consume only chalav Yisrael milk — milk produced with a Torah-observant Jewish person present. Lacking proper supervision, we do not know whether the milk comes from a kosher or a not kosher animal. (The Jew has to be at the production but need not actually participate.)

For centuries, there was no question that the milk in a Jewish home was chalav Yisrael. Farms made kosher and not kosher milk, and Jews would either trek to the farms to supervise milking or they had their own cows.

In the U.S., most farms do not produce milk from non-kosher animals. Moreover, the United States Department of Agriculture prohibits such production for commercial sale, and a farm that violates the law is subject to severe penalties. The question therefore arises: Whereas the purpose of having a Jew oversee milk production is to assure that the milk will be kosher, and the law accomplishes the same purpose, are we permitted to consume chalav stam, unsupervised milk?

This question is the subject of vigorous scholarly debate. In a famous responsum, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, maintains that one may rely upon the fear induced by government regulation. While Rabbi Feinstein adds that one preferably would restrict himself to chalav Yisrael products, his lenient opinion is relied upon by many Jews in the United States. Other respected authorities disagree, holding that chalav Yisrael is a rabbinic injunction that cannot be abrogated simply for circumstantial reasons. Still other authorities assert that chalav stam can have an undesirable spiritual effect. Documented stories abound about the lengths to which men and women have gone to drink only chalav Yisrael milk.

There are further layers of disagreement concerning the extent of the prohibition — whether it is limited to milk or extends to all products made with milk, and whether it applies to milk powder as well. (We will discuss these and other issues in the June issue of The Jewish Homemaker.)

Even those who permit chalav stam restrict this leniency to countries where the law forbids the commercial sale of milk from non-kosher animals. Where this is not true, one must use only chalav Yisrael products. Those who travel to countries that do not afford this legal protection should refrain from drinking local milk. Additionally, even in the U.S., one cannot go to a farm and purchase any milk; the law pertains only to commercially produced milk.

The OK Laboratories has long recognized that both groups are represented among mainstream kosher consumers. Therefore, we accommodate those who consume chalav stam by certifying such products as OKDairy. And we have the highest regard for the thousands of Jews who are scrupulous about chalav Yisrael. In fact, all the Rabbinic Coordinators at the OK personally use only chalav Yisrael. We strive, wherever possible, to certify dairy products as chalav Yisrael, and in the most stringent manner. OK-certified chalav Yisrael items are designated as such on the label.

How do we insure that chalav Yisrael products are made with uncompromising fidelity to the law? It all begins on the farm. Here are some issues that arise in chalav Yisrael production:

1. The chalav Yisrael audience is large, and when we are asked by a dairy company to supervise a production, up to fifty farms may be needed to yield sufficient quantities of milk. Several mashgichim may be required, and they have to devise a precise schedule so that they can be present at the beginning of each milking, as required by the halachah.

2. Milk does not go straight from the cow to the bottle. Neither is it immediately made into cheese or some other dairy product. Rather, it is transported from the farm to a dairy for processing. The milk is stored on the farm in refrigerated tanks; when enough milk is collected, a tank truck transports it to the dairy.

According to Jewish law, if a non-kosher product is stored in a vessel for more than twenty-four hours, the vessel absorbs the non-kosher taste. Unless we kosherize the vessel, we cannot subsequently store kosher product in it for over twenty-four hours, or the kosher product will absorb the non-kosher taste and itself become not kosher. We term this process “kavush.” Those people who consume only chalav Yisrael treat chalav stam as not kosher, and would be unable to use this stored milk.

The OK has developed a unique solution to the kavush problem. Before twenty-four hours have passed, we pump the milk into a different tank, so that it does not become kavush.

3. The tank trucks used in transportation must be thoroughly cleaned and kosherized. Before leaving a farm with their chalav Yisrael cargo, they must be sealed by the mashgiach to prevent tampering. When they are opened at the dairy, a mashgiach is present.

4. We document the precise amount of chalav Yisrael milk that was made. If too much milk is later found, we know tampering has occurred.

5. A kashrus concern can arise even with kosher animals. There is a medical operation performed on cows that punctures the fourth stomach wall, or abomasum, rendering the animals and their milk not kosher. Mashgichim have to ascertain that these cows are separated from the general population during milking. (This is a concern for chalav stam as well; how we address it there is beyond the scope of the present article.) Before our most recent production of chalav Yisrael, we had Rabbi Dovid Steigman, an OK Rabbinic Coordinator who is also an expert shochet, inspect the animals to insure that no operations had been performed on them.

The OK has created a comprehensive set of instructions for our dairy mashgichim to follow so that all pertinent issues are addressed. Among these guidelines, the mashgiach must visit the farm prior to milking so that we can explain our requirements. The mashgiach must be present at the beginning of the milking to insure that no residual non-kosher milk is left in the milking receptacle. If milking begins prior to the mashgiach’s arrival, the milk is rejected. If the mashgiach is certain that proper procedures will be followed, he does not have to remain for the entire milking, but will return periodically (yotzei v’nichnas).

All milk stored in tanks must be sealed by the mashgiach when he leaves the farm. The mashgiach must be present after milking to supervise the loading and sealing of the tanks. The mashgiach must visit each farm on his route at the beginning, middle, and end of the milking; ideally no more than twenty minutes will elapse between visits.

Recently we discovered that the milking for a popular chalav Yisrael product was being done with insufficient Jewish oversight. The mashgiach visited only once every eight hours; additionally, he was unable to go into one of the farms at night. We have been forced to discontinue use of this product in OK-certified establishments.

Finally, the mashgiach receiving the tank truck at the dairy must reject the shipment if the truck arrives without a seal. Transport trucks must always either be sealed or be physically accompanied by the mashgiach.

Our farm mashgichim complete a detailed Supervision Report for each chalav Yisrael production. This report is forwarded to our central office, so that we maintain a permanent record of all OK-supervised chalav Yisrael productions. Consumers can enjoy OK chalav Yisrael products with the assurance that these have been made under the strictest guidelines.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kosher World!

Kosher World Opens This Week on West Coast

(Anaheim, CA) Kosher World Conference and Expo opens here on Thursday at the Anaheim Convention Center as part of World Ethnic Market. Kosher World will showcase 80 booths of kosher foods, some with a focus on natural and organic foods, which is the theme of Natural Products Expo, a major trade show for the natural and organic food industry. The co-located shows are produced by New Hope Natural Media, which is hoping to develop the 2-year old Kosher World as part of a World Ethnic Market, a concept already developed in Europe by Antoine Bonnel, who has joined the effort. World Ethnic Market incorporates kosher, halal and ethnic food shows under one roof and is a joint venture between New Hope Natural Media of Boulder, Colorado, and World Food Market of Paris, France.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kosher Cookbook for Kids!

B"H

Kosher By Design - Kids in the Kitchen
Order your copies now and you will receive a FREE mini cookie cutter set with every book you order!

By Susie Fishbein

List Price: $22.99
Online Discount: 20%
Artscroll Price: $18.39
ISBN: 1-57819-071-1

Binding: Hardcover / Pages: 192 / Dimensions: 8 3/4" x 10"
Published: November 2005 by ArtScroll / Shaar Press

Description:

Give your kids memories and skills that will last a lifetime!

Thanks to Susie Fishbein - author of the best-selling cookbooks Kosher by Design and Kosher by Design Entertains - you and your child can have the time of your lives in the kitchen. A time to experiment with new cooking ideas and taste the yummy results together.

Kids love to cook, and even the pickiest eaters will savor foods they prepare themselves. The recipes in this book are for real food, not silly novelties, your child can learn to prepare with ease. They're simple enough to give a child confidence in his or her ability to turn out great tasting, appetizing meals, and interesting enough to engage the parental chief chef. (You'll want to borrow these terrific ideas when you're not in the mood to prepare the sophisticated fare in Susie's other books!)

Kid-friendly in every way, easy-to-follow instructions and helpful tips teach your child to use the techniques known by every good cook. Each recipe comes with an equipment list and an ingredient list, so everything can be assembled ahead of time. And a photo of every scrumptious dish inspires your youngster to scale the heights of kid cookery!

Order a copy of Kosher By Design - Kids in the Kitchen for your home today and let the fun begin!




Jewish stuff at ChaiSpace!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Kosher Education in the Spotlight

Kashrus Organizations in Broad Effort to Educate Kosher Consumers and its Own Mashgichim
(New York)
As the number of packaged kosher products tops 90,000 and ingredient items over 300,000, kashrus organizations are taking steps to provide more customer education as well as educating their own rabbinic supervisors. The Orthodox Union recently launched a synagogue-based program as well as special programming on its OU radio on kashrus issues. The agencies have also stepped up education programs for their own mashgichim (rabbinical supervisors). On March 8th, the OK Kosher Certification held a mashgiach training session at its headquarters in Brooklyn. Led by Restaurant and Catering Rabbinic Coordinator, Rabbi Naftali Marrus, the session focused on familiarizing new mashgichim with OK policies and procedures. He noted the OK’s unique policy of mashgichim calling in to the office when they arrive at work and calling out when they leave, the importance of getting signed written approval from the OK office before using a new product, and OK’s instructions for properly checking vegetables. Other topics included “Pas/Bishul Yisroel.” Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator of the OK, recently traveled to Hong Kong where he delivered a kashrus lecture to the local Jewish community. He also recently gave a community lecture in Brooklyn about the latest whisky controversy. Rabbi Levy spoke about whisky distilleries in Scotland, and reassured attendees that sherry casks do not pose a kashrus problem for whisky.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Freilichen Purim!

Jewish stuff at ChaiSpace!


Jewish stuff at ChaiSpace!

Kosher Recipe of the Day: Purim Hamentaschen!

Traditional Hamantashen

Hamantashen, the classic Purim cookies, are eagerly awaited by everyone young and old. They are versatile and can be made from a good sweet yeast dough, flaky dough or from a traditional cookie dough. The fillings can be mixed and matched. Prune butter and poppy seed are traditional but one can use any kind of jam or preserves.

Ingredients

4 cups flour
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 cup margarine, softened
1 Tbsp. Orange juice
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 tsps. Baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp. Orange rind

Fillings:
1 pound prepared poppy seed filling
or, 1 pound lekvar (apple or prune butter)
or 1 pound strawberry or apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 350
Grease cookie sheets.

Place all ingredients in a large mixer bowl and beat together. You may add a drop more juice or flour, depending in consistency of dough. Roll dough into a ball. Divide into four parts.

Proceed to assemble and bake according to Hamantashen illustrated.

Illustrated Guide:
1. Prepare dough of your choice. Divide into four portions

2. On a floured board roll out each portion to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a round bicuit or cookie cutter cut 3-inch circles.

3. Place 1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon of desired filling in the center of each circle.

4. To shape into triangle, lift up right and left sides, leaving the bottom down and bring both side to meet at the center above the filling.

5. Bring top flap down to the center to meet the two sides. Pinch edges together.

6. Place on grease cookie sheet 1 inch apart and bake at 350 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Kosher: What Jews Do

What Jews Do



The route of every Jew who becomes observant is unique. One of the turning points on my journey occurred at a large Iowa university with a minuscule Jewish population, where during my freshman year of 1963-64, I was the only undergraduate female who identified herself as Jewish.

Among my roommates during my first term was a junior taking a child development class on cultures. She decided to join the committee researching the Jewish culture because she had a ready-made resource to interview - me. As a fourth-generation American descendent of Reform Jews who emigrated from Germany before the U.S. Civil War, I didn't know much about Judaism, but I did my best to answer her questions. The relief that I felt when she finished questioning me was short-lived, however. Every term after that, the child development professor gave my name to the committee studying Judaism. To meet this challenge, I would have to learn something about my heritage.

The college library had two shelves of books on Judaism. I started at one end of the upper shelf and began reading. They gave me basic information about Jewish history, tradition and beliefs. With the help of the books I managed to get through the questions during the winter term. Then, in the spring of my freshman year, I met Janet.

Janet was a Southern Baptist from a small town in Iowa. Like many students at college, she came from a family for whom church was a major focus. Her beliefs guided her behavior in all aspects of her life.

I was the first Jewish person she'd ever met. She told me that she had chosen to write about the Jewish culture because she wanted to learn about the origins of her faith. Could she come with me to synagogue?

The town had a small Reform congregation that met Friday evenings in the parlor of one of the churches. I agreed to take her, and as we strolled through the quiet streets she asked me about my religious life. "Where do you eat?" she asked suddenly.

Mystified, I gave the name of the dorm dining hall.

"How do you manage?" she asked.

"What do you mean? I just eat."

With an edge to her voice she said, "How can you 'just eat?' We get ham, pork or shellfish three or four nights a week, and most of the rest of the time there's meat and milk at the same meal."

"Oh," I said confidently, "You mean kosher. I'm Reform, and we don't keep kosher."

"You don't keep kosher? But from everything I've read, kosher is one of the cornerstones of Judaism. Why don't you keep it?"

I shrugged. "I don't know, we just don't."

Janet stopped and turned to face me, hands on her hips. I can still picture her standing there in the light of a street lamp, dressed the way she would for church in a navy suit, a small white hat and white gloves. She looked me up and down as though I were a bug on a pin. Then she said words that still reverberate through my mind: "If my church told me to do something, I'd do it."

In the long silence that followed, I rolled the words over and over through my mind. And I wondered, why did the Reform movement say keeping kosher wasn't important? I decided to find out.

The next day I found, on one of those shelves of Jewish books, a history of the Reform movement. Breaking bread with others, said the book, is a universal gesture of friendship and goodwill. Keeping kosher prevents Jews and non-Jews from breaking bread together; thus it prevents casual communion between "us" and "them." When Jews stop keeping kosher and eat non-kosher with their neighbors, anti-Semitism will end and Jews will be fully accepted into mainstream society.

I thought of the Jewish history I'd been reading, of Moses Mendelsohn and the Emancipation; of my mother's family, which hadn't kept kosher in at least four generations; and I thought of the Holocaust, which began in Mendelsohn's and my great-great-grandparent's home-land, Germany. I turned to the title page of the book and saw that originally the book had been published in German in Berlin in 1928.

Maybe in 1928 German Jews could say that eating with non-Jews would end anti-Semitism. But they were about to be proved disastrously wrong. Could I continue to eat in a non-Jewish fashion, when the reasoning for permitting Jews to eat non-kosher was based on a complete fallacy?

"If my church told me to do something, I'd do it." Janet's words took one end of my Yiddishe neshama (Jewish soul) and the book's glaring fallacy took the other end, and they shook me until I had to sit down, right there on the floor beside the library stacks. When I stopped shaking, I knew that until I could find a good reason, a true reason, to not keep kosher, I had no choice. I was a Jew, and the Jews kept kosher. It was that simple.

My complete transformation from a secular to a Torah observant Jew took many years and many more lessons in faith. But my first big step began that Shabbat night, when a Christian girl challenged me to stand up and act like a Jew.




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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Kosher Supervision: Part 4

B"H

FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS REQUIRING SUPERVISION

Food, wherever it is eaten, has an affect on the neshamah (soul). Eating only kosher food when visiting, dining out, vacationing or traveling is, of course, just as important as eating kosher at home. Therefore, we must be very careful to patronize only those food establishments which conform to our expectations and standards of kosher. Acquaintances and friends may not always understand our unwillingness to eat in all restaurants, but most people will respect us for upholding our principles.

Restaurants, Caterers And Hotels
When food is prepared in large quantities with many different ingredients, and a number of people are working in the kitchen, the task of maintaining high standards of kashrut is greatly enlarged. Add to this the pressure of commercial considerations, and the need for hashgachah (kosher supervision) becomes apparent. A mashgiach (kosher overseer) is essential and may be required to be on the premises at all times.

The mashgiach must be present to check all products brought into the establishment, and must also be present during the preparation of the food. Before you dine out, find out who is responsible for the kosher supervision of the premises. Trustworthy kosher establishments are always willing to answer your questions about the kosher certification of their restaurant or service.

The proprietor should be a Shabbat observer, for Shabbat observance is a criterion often used to determine a person’s commitment to the Torah and its laws. If the establishment is a hotel, or a restaurant kept open for the purpose of serving holiday meals, the reservations and payment must be made before the Shabbat or holiday begins.

Meat Restaurants: Like all commercial food manufacturers, meat restaurants require proper supervision. A reliable kosher overseer is a necessity. All laws pertaining to kosher meat (shechitah (ritual slaughtering), permissible cuts, salting, treibering) and separation from dairy must be strictly observed.

In addition, incoming food orders must be strictly supervised in order to prevent the use of foods which are non-kosher or dairy. Further, personnel involved in handling the food require careful supervision because they may not be fully aware of the special requirements of kosher meat. Most meat restaurants also serve fish which, besides having its own special kosher requirements, may not be mixed with meat. A reliable kosher overseer is a necessity.

Vegetarian and Dairy restaurants: Do not assume that a restaurant is kosher simply because it does not serve meat. In addition to the requirements for a kosher overseer and for Shabbat and Yom Tov observance, any of the following may cause problems in a vegetarian or dairy restaurant:

*All fish must be kosher; otherwise the pots, dishes, dishwashers, etc. become non-kosher, and foods prepared in such utensils may not be eaten.

*All pareve and dairy ingredients must also be kosher in order to maintain the kosher status of utensils and all other foods. All oil or shortening used must be made of pure vegetable products and be Rabbinically approved.

*Certain vegetables and grains must be carefully washed and checked for insects and worms. Eggs must be inspected for blood spots.

*Food which is usually not eaten raw, and which was prepared for consumption entirely by a non-Jew, is not permitted even if cooked in kosher utensils. Such food is called bishul akum. If a Jew assists, such as by lighting the flame, the food is not bishul akum and may be eaten.

Pre-Packaged Kosher Meals
Airlines: Most airlines will readily arrange, upon request, a pre-packaged kosher meal at no extra cost. When making your reservation, be sure the kosher meal has a reliable kosher certification. The food must be brought to you complete with its wrappers still sealed. It may not be warmed in the airplane’s oven once the original wrapper is removed, and may not be handled with non-kosher utensils.

Experienced kosher travelers find it wise to call the airline the day before the flight to confirm their request for a kosher meal. Even with these precautions, it is advisable to pack some carry-on snack food just in case.

Hospitals: Most hospitals have available, or are willing to obtain, pre-packaged kosher meals like the ones served by airlines. Again, the food must be warmed in its original wrapper and be brought to you still sealed. The nursing staff will often be quite helpful and may allow you to keep some food in the refrigerator. This food should be clearly marked and sealed.

Some hospitals even have kosher kitchens. It is important to ensure that there is kosher supervision. Often a kosher overseer is available on the premises and will be ready to answer your questions.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kosher Supervision: Part 3

B"H

SPECIAL KOSHER REQUIREMENTS

The following paragraphs outline special requirements for kosher wine, milk products, baked goods, and food from Israel. Many commercially prepared products also fall under the category of cooked foods, which has its own set of special kashrut requirements. It is particularly important that all of these products bear a reputable kosher certification. Companies owned and operated by kosher-observant Jews are likely to be the most stringent in upholding these special requirements. In the case of nationally-known certifications, the standards vary widely. The best policy is to look for the most widely-respected kosher certification on the foods that are available.

Wine and Grape Products
Wine, more than any other food or drink, represents the holiness and separateness of the Jewish people. It is used for the sanctification of Shabbat and Yom Tov and at Jewish celebrations. In the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) wine was poured upon the Altar together with the sacrifice.

However, since wine was and still is used in many forms of idolatrous worship, it has a unique status in Jewish Law, which places extra restrictions on the making and handling of wine. This includes wine used for non-ceremonial purposes.

The production and handling of kosher wine must be done exclusively by Jews. Wine, grape juice, and all products containing wine or grape juice must remain solely in Jewish hands during the manufacturing process and also after the seal of the bottle has been opened. We are not allowed to drink any wine or grape juice, or any drink containing wine or grape juice, which has been touched by a non-Jew after the seal of the bottle has been opened.

Yayin Mevushal: (Boiled Wine). Kosher wine (or grape juice) which has been boiled prior to the bottling process is called yayin mevushal. In the time of the Beit Hamikdash, boiling wine rendered it unfit to be brought upon the Altar.

Yayin mevushal is not considered “sacramental wine” and is therefore not included in the prohibition against being handled by non-Jews. This wine must, as will all kosher wines, bear a reliable kosher certification and it should say yayin mevushal.

A wide variety of domestic and imported kosher wines under reliable supervision have been added to the sweet Concords traditionally associated with kosher wines. Many of these wines are yayin mevushal, as indicated on the label. Whether for Kiddush (sanctification over wine), dining, or a celebration, you are sure to find a fine kosher wine to suit your taste.

Grape Ingredients in Processed Foods: All liquids produced from fresh or dried grapes, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, such as grape juice and wine vinegar, are in the same category as wine in Jewish Law. Therefore, foods with grape flavoring or additives must always have a reliable hechsher; examples are jam, soda, Popsicles, candy, juice-packed fruit, fruit punch, and lemonade.

Alcoholic drinks such as cognac and brandy have wine bases. Liqueurs and blended whiskeys are often blended with wine. All such beverages require kosher supervision, as does herring in wine sauce.

Cream of tartar is made from wine sediment and needs Rabbinical supervision.

Baked Goods
All baked goods must have reliable kosher certification. Some bakeries in Jewish communities carry the certification from a local Orthodox Rabbi or the kosher board in that city.

In addition, bread, cake and other baked goods from a Jewish bakery with reliable kosher certification often ensures not only the kosher status of these products but also that they are pas Yisrael (the bread of Israel). It is preferable to use pas Yisrael products whenever possible. This means that a Jewish person has baked or assisted in the baking of the products. Even if he simply lit the oven he is considered as having assisted.

Non-commercial bread and cake that is completely baked by an individual non-Jew is called pas akum and may not be eaten.

Under certain circumstances, baked goods prepared with kosher ingredients in a non-Jewish bakery (not by an individual) may be permitted. Such bread is called pas palter. The conditions under which pas palter may be used are 1) that the bakery is under reliable Rabbinic supervision to ensure that the ingredients, utensils and all substances coming in contact with the food are kosher, and that 2) comparable pas Yisrael baked goods are unavailable. Many packaged baked goods sold in supermarkets are pas palter, even if certified kosher.

For spiritual reasons, many Jews do not use pas palter even in cases where it is permitted. All should avoid its use during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Kosher certification on packaged baked goods does not mean the product is pas Yisrael unless it is labeled as such.

NOTE: Commercial breads often contain milk or milk derivatives; check the label to make sure it states that the product is pareve. If bread is dairy, even if it is known to be kosher, there are various problems involved which make it necessary to consult on Orthodox Rabbi.

Cooked Foods
Certain foods which were completely cooked by a non-Jew (bishul akum) may not be eaten, even if the foods are kosher and are cooked in kosher utensils.

Foods that generally come under the category of bishul akum are: 1) Foods that cannot be eaten raw, such as meat or grains. (This excludes foods that can be eaten either cooked or raw, such as apples or carrots.) 2) Foods that are considered important, “fit to set upon a king’s table.” There are various opinions regarding what are considered “royal foods.”

The way the food is prepared (boiled, steamed, pickled, etc.) can also affect its status regarding these laws.

If a Jew has supervised and assisted in the cooking of these foods, such as by lighting the fire of the oven or stirring the food, such food is considered bishul Yisrael and is permitted.

These laws affect many commercially prepared foods. Some supervising services write the words bishul Yisrael on their hechsher. One should consult an Orthodox Rabbi for further clarification. These laws must also be kept in mind when enlisting the help of a non-Jewish housekeeper or cook.

Dairy Products
Jewish law requires that in the production of Dairy products, a mashgiach or Jewish supervisor must be present from the beginning of the milking to the end of processing to ensure that only milk from kosher animals is used. Where supervised milk is unavailable, some Rabbinic Authorities permit government inspection as sufficient assurance (although not in all countries). All agree, however, that actual supervision is preferable. Milk with such supervision is known as chalav Yisrael.

Jewish tradition stresses the importance of using chalav Yisrael products exclusively, and emphasizes that using non-chalav Yisrael dairy products can have an adverse spiritual effect. Even when chalav Yisrael is very difficult to obtain, many people, aware of its positive effect on a Jew’s spiritual sensitivity, go out of their way to acquire these products. Certainly, where they are readily available, one is required by Jewish Law to use these products exclusively.

Food From Israel
Several Torah commandments involving agricultural practices in the Land of Israel apply even when the products are exported to other countries. Recent articles report that Israel exports over 7 billion dollars worth of agricultural products per year, all subject to the Torah’s agricultural laws.

Any food from Israel, whether fresh or packaged, requires a reliable hechsher. Israeli products have become common in American supermarkets. Jaffa oranges are the most famous, but one can also find Israeli tomatoes and other produce. Packaged and processed foods from Israel such as crackers, soups, and candies are also widely available. All of these must comply with the following agricultural laws.

T’rumah and Ma’aser: Gifts of crops for those who served in the Holy Temple. When the Jewish people settled in the land of Israel, eleven tribes received a portion of land as an inheritance. The twelfth tribe, Levi, comprised of Levi’im and Kohanim, did not receive portions of land. Their lives were to be devoted to serving G-d in the Holy Temple, not to working the land. The other tribes, known collectively as Israelites, were commanded to give to the tribe of Levi the “first fruits of thy corn, or thy wine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep.” (Deuteronomy 28:4)

By giving a portion of the land’s produce to the Kohanim and Levi’im, living representatives of G-d and the Torah, the Jews made tangible the concept that material possessions must be used in the service of spiritual life.

In addition, a certain percentage of the crops were to be designated for the poor (ma’aser oni) and a certain part to be eaten only in Jerusalem (ma’aser sheni).

Even today, fruits, vegetables, and grains grown in the Land of Israel are subject to the laws of t’rumah and ma’aser. Although these special portions are no longer consumed, the food may not be eaten until the portions of t’rumah and ma’aser are separated. Consult an Orthodox Rabbi for practical guidance in applying these laws.

Shmittah: A year of rest for the land. Every seventh year in the Land of Israel is a “sabbatical” year for the land, just as every seventh day is a Sabbath day for each individual Jew: “You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat from your fields just as you do…” (Exodus 23:10-11).

Farmers in Israel who observe the shmittah year proclaim their faith in G-d, Who promised to give a blessing in the sixth year so that their needs would be more than met in the seventh. No food may be grown or cultivated during this year, and all poor or needy people are welcome to collect any crops remaining in the fields. It is forbidden to eat food grown by a Jew in Israel during the shmittah year.

Orlah: The fruit of young trees. Fruit which has grown in the first three years of a tree’s existence is called orlah and may not be used. Even in the fourth year certain restrictions apply. A hechsher is therefore necessary on fruit from Israel. However, for fruit grown outside of Israel, only that fruit which is definitely known to be orlah is prohibited.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kosher Supervision: Part 2

B"H
THE NEED FOR RELIABLE SUPERVISION

Reading The Label – Why The Ingredient List is Not Enough: Label-scanning becomes a habit for the kosher-conscious as well as for the health-conscious consumer. Looking for the hechsher and for the statement of whether a product is dairy, meat or pareve, or for questionable ingredients listed on the label, are necessary procedures. But the ingredient listing alone, without kosher certification, cannot be used to determine whether the product is kosher. Some factors which could cause a seemingly innocent product to be non-kosher are:

*A food may be processed in a factory where non-kosher products are also prepared and the same machinery is used for both. The food produced in such a factory is non-kosher, unless a reliable mashgiach (kosher overseer) supervises the koshering of this equipment.

*Many additives used to enhance the flavor, texture and color of food are not kosher. Their names are often technical or vague (e.g. “natural flavors”), with the result that we do not know exactly what they are. All additives must also be processed on kosher equipment for the product to be kosher. (For further discussion of additives, see below.)

*Only “ingredients” must appear on the label. Processing agents, release agents, and other substances, often of animal origin, are technically not considered “ingredients” and usually are not listed. For example, oils and fats used to coat the pans for baked goods are not listed as ingredients and are often not kosher.

*Oils or shortening must be certified kosher and pareve. According to government standards, an ingredient may be listed as vegetable oil or shortening even when containing a small percentage of animal fat.

*The ingredients or a product may have been slightly altered, yet the manufacturer is allowed to continue using the same labels until new ones are printed.

*Manufacturers of certain products, such as ice cream, are not required to list ingredients at all, and therefore may list them selectively.

*Israeli products, which need special supervision, are often used by large companies. We would never be aware of their presence simply by reading the label.

How food technology affects kosher
We can see from the preceding examples that our foods are often not one hundred percent what they appear to be. Even “pure apple juice” or “pure apple cider,” with “no artificial ingredients or additives,” may not be kosher. Apple juice is a good example of what may happen to a “natural” product when nature meets technology, so we will explore it in further detail.

“Pure apple juice” generally has gelatin (made from the skin, cartilage, bones and meat of non-kosher animals) added to remove the pectin from the juice and to give it a clear appearance. The pectin attaches itself to the gelatin and both are filtered out. Kosher problems can arise in the filtering method or if the juice is heated before filtering. Even a “cloudy” juice, which would seem to indicate that no clarifying agent has been added, sometimes indicates the opposite: the gelatin has been added, but not totally removed, in order to give it a “natural” appearance.

In addition, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) currently approves a number of different food colorings. Many are of natural origin, including fairly common red dyes derived from insects — which may be completely “natural” but are not kosher. Nutritional additives such as proteins, amino acids or vitamins may also be non-kosher or render a pareve product dairy. For example some tuna fish is made dairy by virtue of the type of protein added. When buying tuna, be sure it bears a reliable hechsher. One must still carefully examine the list of ingredients to be sure that no dairy ingredients are included. Sometimes, but not always, dairy products are marked with a “D” next to the hechsher.

These few examples should provide us with ample reason to insist upon reliable kosher certification when shopping for food, even for foods considered “natural.”

Staying informed: it is more important than ever for the kosher consumer to be aware of new information, because changes in kosher supervision and in food production occur almost daily.

Sometimes these changes are misleading to the consumer. A manufacturer, for example, may change a product’s ingredients and yet keep the same label with its kashrut symbol. Kosher agencies often remove or add their certification. Mistakes are sometimes made in the labeling of ingredients, indicating, for example, that a product is pareve when it is really dairy, or vice versa.

To keep up to date in the complex world of kosher one should keep in touch with those who are knowledgeable and also read some of the magazines or newsletters devoted to keeping the public informed in matters of kosher supervision.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Facts About Kosher Supervision: Part 1

B"H

Knowing the basic laws of kosher and their application in the kosher kitchen sets the stage for the part of keeping kosher that is sometimes the most challenging: buying kosher food. Although there are many more kosher products available to us than there were to our mothers and grandmothers, there are also many more questions that need to be asked.

Hundreds of foods labeled “kosher” dot our supermarket shelves, but many factors that we cannot see complicate the process of guaranteeing a product as kosher. Over 2,800 additives not known fifty years ago are legally present in our foods, including colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. Huge factories manufacture enormous quantities of many types of food using processing techniques of which we know little or nothing.

Furthermore, these food factories often incorporate ingredients and agents which have been manufactured at still other plants and which often contain previously processed ingredients. As many ingredients used by local food-processing factories are imported from countries which do not have reliable supervising Rabbis sometimes find themselves on worldwide journeys when determining whether a single product is kosher.

The enormous quantities of food manufactured by these industrial methods poses another difficulty for the kosher consumer. Often, a seemingly kosher product is processed on equipment also used for non-kosher foods – making the previously kosher food non-kosher. Other requirements of kosher, which must be scrupulously upheld (such as meat and dairy separation) are often submerged in the busy, come-and-go routine of factory personnel who are limited in their knowledge of the kosher laws.

For these and other reasons, it is necessary to have reliable Rabbinical supervision and certification of kosher foods.


SUPERVISION SERVICES

All processed food products must be carefully supervised throughout the many phases of production: cooking, baking, freezing, bottling, and canning. This supervision is performed by a party independent of the manufacturer, at the latter’s expense.

Kosher supervision is provided by either a national agency, a local board of kashrut, or an individual Orthodox Rabbi. Most large kashrut organizations have registered symbols or logos. This appears on the package and signifies their endorsement of the product. (This is quite different from a mere “K,” see below.) Sometimes only the name of a particular Rabbi or city kosher board appears.

The kosher certification is called a hechsher. When an organization or individual puts a hechsher on a product they attest to the fact that the contents and manufacturing meet their standards of kashrut. Not every hechsher is considered reliable.

The Letter “K”: A “K” appearing on a label does not necessarily mean that the product is kosher. It may signify kashrut certification, or it may have been put there by the manufacturer as his own claim that the product is kosher. To find out who or what is behind the “K” on a product, write to or call the manufacturer. Keep up with the newsletters published by the major certifying agencies listing the products under their supervision.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Designing a Kosher Kitchen

B"H
Keeping Kosher
Despite popular belief, it requires more than just dual appliances
February 01, 2006 - What makes a kitchen kosher? Strictly speaking, it's the way the kitchen is used and maintained, rather than the design or materials, although some materials may be preferable. Ritual Jewish law and practice dictate separation of meat from dairy, and this extends to having entirely distinct sets of dishes, silver, cutlery, cookware, sinks, appliances and countertop areas. Add in another dimension when dishes et al. are changed yet again during the week of Passover, and it's clear to see that observant Jews—particularly those with sufficient space—are in the market for additional cabinetry, as well as all of the other accoutrements that make a kitchen convenient and appealing.

In the real world, however, not every home is large enough to accommodate doubling or tripling the kitchen space, nor is every customer affluent enough to handle such a large investment. Those with severely modest means may have to box up Passover tableware and utensils and store them in closets for the other 51 weeks of the year. Sometimes a double sink will have to stand in for two separate units (even a single sink can be permissible, provided it is not of porous material and is properly cleaned before switching from meat to dairy or vice versa). A single dishwasher also may be acceptable to some authorities provided it has a stainless-steel interior and the racks are changed depending on what dishes are being washed.

Under the circumstances, it's obvious that any kosher customer with the means is going to want to make their kitchen as large and as workable as possible. Other clients may also want large, easy-to-use kitchens and more than one dishwasher or sink, but for the kosher-observant, it is almost a necessity.

One of the more significant differences between a kosher and non-kosher kitchen, noted Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, rabbinical coordinator in charge of restaurants and catering for the Brooklyn, NY-based OK Kosher Certification organization, is that most conventional kitchens are predicated on an invisible work triangle defined by the placement of one sink, one refrigerator and one range. "In a kosher kitchen, what you have instead is an invisible Star of David, with two overlapping triangles and, ideally, two sinks, two refrigerators and two ranges," said Fogelman, also an accomplished woodworker who built his own home.

But, as mentioned, there is more to designing a kosher kitchen than just adding extra appliances. Lev Eynisfeld and Lev Moscovitz, co-owners of Arte Kitchens & Baths in East Brunswick, NJ, have installed about a half-dozen kosher kitchens, and as with conventional designs, they realized that the ability to make every inch of space count is a highly valued skill.

Accordingly, they and their on-staff designers advise customers to:

Eliminate soffits and run cabinets all the way up to the ceiling.

Make use of under-sink space by creating a squared-off, U-shaped pullout drawer that surrounds the plumbing on three sides.

Replace standard shelves and drawers with modular wire shelves and baskets that can be configured in a variety of ways to maximize the available interior cabinet space.

Use "magic corner" snap-out wire basket drawers to open up dead corners (and facilitate cleaning in those corners).

Or perhaps as an alternative to the "magic corner" mechanism, construct a line of extra-long drawers that feature a V-shaped face and fit into the corner on a 45-degree angle (the V-front preserves the look of a standard corner, while the extra length of the drawers offers bonus storage space in an area that tends to be under-utilized).

Erika Weiss, who trained as an architect and who has owned and operated Brooklyn-based Erika Weiss Space Planning & Design for 33 years, said, "No one tends to have kitchens as large as those who keep kosher." Among her tips for kosher kitchen designers are the following:

Recommend appliances that feature a Sabbath mode. With refrigerators, for example, this means a unit that allows the automatic fan to be turned off from Friday sundown to Saturday night (or to stay in a constant "on" position), thus releasing the residents of a household from inadvertently causing initiation of power usage during the Sabbath period when such activity is enjoined.

Recommend stainless-steel sinks and steel or granite countertops and work surfaces for customers who can't or won't have fully discrete areas for meat and dairy. Make sure that the material is a pure granite or stone. Sometimes they are really "composites" and therefore cannot be kashered. These non-porous surfaces, Weiss said, can be used for both, provided that they are thoroughly cleaned and that boiling water is poured on them in between meat and dairy operations.

According to Star-K, which provides kosher certification, wood may also be kashered as stainless steel if it has a smooth surface and no cracks. Kosher law does not, however, allow kashering of plastic or materials with plastic components.

When it comes to choosing appliances, whether the kitchen can accommodate two sets or not, it is important to keep kosher tenets in mind. Case in point, according to Star-K, kashering a glass, Corning, halogen or Ceran electric smoothtop range can be a difficult process, as it is hard to kasher the area surrounding the actual burners. On a gas range, however, the cast iron or metal grates upon which the pots sit may be inserted into the oven after they have been thoroughly cleaned. The grates can then be kashered simultaneously with the oven, making this an easier process (and possibly a better choice) for the homeowner.

Of course, if there are any questions that arise during the design of kosher kitchen, Weiss suggested that customers should be encouraged to ask for rabbinic guidance. —Seth Mackenzie

Kitchen shown is by Rick Glickman, of Skokie-IL-based Dream Kitchens.

-Kitchen & Bath Buisness Magazine