Walking into a local supermarket, I asked the cashier, “Can you tell me in which aisle you keep the matzo?” She replied, “Matzo? Never heard of it!” as she kept clicking away on her cash register.
I was talking to my friend George the other day when he said, “Mark is really kosher!” I asked, “What do you mean, ‘Mark is kosher?’” He said, “You know, he’s a squared-away guy.”
We often hear of various terms used in Jewish cooking, but we seldom know what they mean. Let’s cook up some answers for these terms in the “Kosher Kitchen.”
What’s Really Kosher?
First, the word kosher refers to foods that are fit, proper, or ritually acceptable for human consumption according to Jewish dietary law. God has stipulated which foods are proper to eat and which are forbidden in Leviticus 11:1–47 and Deuteronomy 14:3–21. Utensils and dishes used in the preparation and serving of Jewish foods according to dietary practice are said to be kosher as well.
Only animals slaughtered according to the laws of Judaism are considered kosher. The slaughterer (Hebrew shochet) is a man trained in butchering kosher animals. He uses a sharp knife free from all ridges to make one quick, clean cut to the jugular vein of the animal to cause instant, painless death. The meat is soaked in water and salted to make sure all the blood has been removed. Jewish people are forbidden to eat meat containing blood (Lev. 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:10). The reason for this is twofold. First, since blood is the source of life, it may not be consumed: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11). Second, blood was to be used in Israel’s sacrificial system to make “atonement for the soul” (v. 11).
Those keeping a kosher home may not cook or serve dairy (Hebrew, Milkhig) and meat (Hebrew, Fayshig) together. Two sets of cooking utensils, dishes, and silverware that are kept for dairy and meat products in separate storage areas must be used. Jewish law forbids the partaking of meat or dairy products within 4–6 hours of the other. This tradition was falsely developed from Moses’ command: “Thou shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk (Ex. 23:19).
The Hebrew word trayf describes foods that are forbidden by Jewish law to eat, animals rejected because of disease or unfitness, animals that have not been slaughtered properly, and utensils that are unfit for serving according to dietary laws.
The Kosher Cookbook
Here are some foods you might not have known were Jewish and can be made kosher.
Bagel: A doughnut-shaped, hard roll made with yeast, then boiled, glazed, and baked. It is often toasted and served with cream cheese.
Blintzes: A thinly rolled pancake with various fillings, especially cheese.
Cholent: A vegetable and meat stew served during the Sabbath.
Gefilte fish: A stuffed fish made in the shape of a roll or loaf.
Hallah: A braided loaf of white bread, sprinkled with poppy seeds, prepared especially for the Sabbath.
Hamantashen: Triangular shaped pastries filled with poppy seed, prune, and other fillings. They are served at Purim, recalling the triangular hat worn by Haman. Also called Haman’s pockets.
Knish: A pocket of thin dough, filled with chopped seasoned meat or mashed potatoes, fried or baked. They are often served with soup.
Kuchen: A type of coffee cake.
Kugel: A type of pudding made from potatoes or noodles.
Latke: A potato pancake served at Hanukkah.
Lox: A smoked salmon, many times served with bagels and cream cheese.
Matzah: A flat, unleavened bread eaten at Passover. Matzo is also used to make a large matzo ball for soup.
Quenelles: A dumpling made of various meats.
Strudel: A pastry made from a sheet of thin dough rolled up with filling and baked.
Kosher: An encircled “U” or “K” on the package to indicate the packaged food has been properly prepared and is fit for use.
Are you tired of using the same old recipes every week? Why not purchase a Jewish cookbook to spice up your cooking? Pick and prepare one of these foods for your family. The Kosher Kitchen just might help you learn about Jewish culture and enjoy a tasty meal, too!