Kashrut is the biblical set of Jewish dietary laws. Food that may be consumed according to halakha (Jewish law) is termed kosher. Food that is not in accordance with Jewish law is called treif. Kosher can also refer to anything that is fit for use or correct according to halakha.
Contrary to popular misconception, rabbis or other religious officials do not "bless" food to make it kosher. There are blessings that observant Jews recite over food before eating it, but these blessings have nothing to do with making the food kosher. Food can be kosher without a rabbi or priest ever becoming involved with it: the vegetables from your garden are undoubtedly kosher (as long as they don't have any bugs, which are not kosher!). However, in our modern world of processed foods, it is difficult to know what ingredients are in your food and how they were processed, so it is helpful to have a rabbi examine the food and its processing and assure kosher consumers that the food is kosher.
The first and most obvious idea behind the kosher laws is self-control and discipline. The prohibition against meat and milk also serves to remind us where our food comes from. The meat is from a dead animal, the milk from a living animal. “Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” - be aware that obtaining meat necessitates death, obtaining milk requires life. These are foods that have their origin in living creatures and keeping them separate makes us aware of their source. The ruminants that have split hooves tend to be tranquil, domesticated animals that have no natural weapons. These are animals whose characteristics we may absorb through eating. We may not eat scavengers, carnivores or birds of prey—these are not characteristics that we want to absorb at all.
One may not eat of fruit of a tree in the first three years from the time of its planting. (Orlah) In the Land of Israel, tithes must be taken from all crops. Some tithes are divided among the Priests (Kohanim), Levites, and the poor. Others must be eaten in Jerusalem by the owners and shared with the local population. If these tithes are not separated out of the crop then the produce may not be eaten—the wheat, barley or fruit is actually not kosher until the commandments of tithing have been fulfilled.
The restrictions on grape products derive from the laws against using products of idolatry. Wine was commonly used in the rituals of all ancient religions, and wine was routinely sanctified for pagan purposes while it was being processed. For this reason, use of wines and other grape products made by non-Jews was prohibited. (Whole grapes are not a problem, nor are whole grapes in fruit cocktail).
For the most part, this rule only affects wine and grape juice. This becomes a concern with many fruit drinks or fruit-flavored drinks, which are often sweetened with grape juice. You may also notice that it is virtually impossible to find kosher baking powder, because baking powder is made with cream of tartar, a by-product of wine making.
All fruits and vegetables are kosher (but see the note regarding Grape Products below). However, bugs and worms that may be found in some fruits and vegetables are not kosher. Fruits and vegetables that are prone to this sort of thing should be inspected to ensure that they contain no bugs. Leafy vegetables like lettuce and herbs and flowery vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are particularly prone to bugs and should be inspected carefully. Strawberries and raspberries can also be problematic. The Star-K kosher certification organization has a very nice overview of the fruits and vegetables prone to this and the procedure for addressing it in each type.
1. Shechita: Kosher meat requires that the animal/bird be slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the Torah (Shechita). (Fish do not have this requirement.) In this procedure, a trained kosher slaughterer (shochet) severs the trachea and esophagus of the animal with a special razor-sharp knife. . This also severs the jugular vein, causing near-instantaneous death with minimal pain to the animal.
2. Bedika: After the animal/bird has been properly slaughtered, its internal organs are inspected for any physiological abnormalities that may render the animal non-kosher (treif). The lungs, in particular, must be examined to determine that there are no adhesions (sirchot) which may be indicative of a puncture in the lungs.
3. Nikkur: Animals contain many veins and fats that are forbidden by the Torah and must be removed. The procedure of removal is called "Nikkur," and it is quite complex. In practice today, the hind quarter of most kosher animals is simply removed and sold as non-kosher meat.
4. Salting: The Torah forbids eating of the blood of an animal or bird (Leviticus 7:26); fish do not have this requirement. Thus in order to extract the blood, the entire surface of meat must be covered with coarse salt. It is then left for an hour on an inclined or perforated surface to allow the blood to flow down freely. The meat is then thoroughly washed to remove all salt. Meat must be koshered within 72 hours after slaughter so as not to permit the blood to congeal. (An alternate means of removing the blood is through broiling on a perforated grate over an open fire.)
Kashering is the term in removing blood from the animal, while the term Porschen or Nikkur describes the removal of the forbidden veins and skin. Once the animal is slaughtered, it is then treibered in order to remove the fats and veins. It will then be soaked in a bath filled with room temperature water in order to release the blood. Once done, the soaked meat is then added with coarse salts on both sides for one hour. Aside from meat, kosher is also being practiced with other animals such as fish and fowls. This is basically what the word kosher implies.
Foods which contain neither meat nor dairy ingredients are called "Parve." All fruits, grains and vegetables in their natural state are Kosher and Parve. Fish which have fins and scales are Kosher and Parve. Not Kosher fish species include sturgeon, catfish and swordfish. All shellfish, eel, sharks, underwater mammals, and reptiles are not Kosher. Certain grain products and their derivatives, although Kosher the rest of the year, may not be used during Passover. In addition, in many communities legumes are not permitted on Passover. Kosher for Passover items may be made only with utensils that are Kosher for Passover according to Jewish law.
In addition to these descriptions, meats or animals could only be considered kosher if they are slaughtered by a Schochet, which is a type of ritual slaughter. This law prevents causing suffering on animals, where in death must be handed in a quick and painless way as possible. This means that a sharp blade to cut the back of the neck is commonly utilized in order for kosher to happen. As soon as the right way of slaughtering is done, Kashering and Porschen or Nikkur follows.
Animals and fowl must be slaughtered by a specialist, called a shochet, and then soaked and salted in accordance with Jewish law. All carnivorous (meat-eating) animals and fowl, and the blood of all animals and fowl, and any derivatives or products thereof, are not Kosher.
Fowl and fish are also included in kosher rules. The bible lists about twenty different species of birds that cannot be eaten. Not included in that list is chicken and turkey. Only fish that have fins and scales may be eaten. That excludes many of the most popular shellfish such as lobster, shrimp, and clams. On the upside, salmon, pike, and whitefish are kosher so you can enjoy Sunday brunch with lox and other traditional fish delicacies.
According to the laws of the Torah, the only types of meat that may be eaten are cattle and game that have “cloven hooves” and “chew the cud.” If an animal species fulfills only one of these conditions (for example the pig, which has split hooves but does not chew the cud, or the camel, which chews the cud, but does not have split hooves), then its meat may not be eaten. Examples of kosher animals in this category are bulls, cows, sheep, lambs, goats, veal, and springbok.
Kosher refers to a set of biblical rules regarding food and food preparation. When food is prepared according to these rules it is deemed kosher. Those who take special care to eat such foods are considered to be kosher. Even when the food itself is kosher, there are limits on how we prepare what we eat. This most often involves avoiding cooking meat together with dairy products.In fact, kosher eaters cannot even eat meats served on plates that were used for dairy or vice versa.
As it says in the German, Man ist was man isst! Man is what man eats. The word kosher is familiar and, at the same time, foreign. One may think of strict rules and religious regulations. In Hebrew, “Kashrus,” from the root kosher (or “kasher”), means suitable and/or “pure”, thus ensuring fitness for consumption.The laws of “Kashrus” include a comprehensive legislation concerning permitted and forbidden foods. There are several aspects to these dietary rules.