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Jewish cuisine: which foods are actually kosher?

"That's not entirely kosher to me" - everyone has heard this saying before. It means that something is wrong or something is suspect. But the original meaning is different.

The term "kosher" originally comes from the Jewish faith and stands for foods that correspond to the dietary laws of the Torah. "Kosher" means something like "pure" or "allowed".

Kosher: origin and meaning

The Jewish dietary laws, also known as kashrut rules, roughly divide food into kosher, i.e. permitted, and not kosher (meet). In addition, devout Jews differentiate meaty (basari) from milky (chalawi) and neutral foods (parve).

The origin of this Jewish purity law lies in the millennia-old Torah, the holy scripture of the Jews. It corresponds to the Old Testament of the Bible and contains the five books of Moses. For example, the Torah dictates that the kid should not be cooked in its mother's milk. This is the basis for the separation of milky and meaty dishes, both during preparation and consumption. The result: compliance with time intervals between such dishes and separate dishes.

Not all Jews obey the rules; others feel bound by them to different degrees.

Schächten: A controversial slaughter method

Another rule forbids believing Jews from consuming blood. It establishes the controversial slaughter method of slaughtering, which is still practiced today: The animal should bleed as completely as possible during kosher slaughter. To do this, the butcher cuts the carotid arteries and trachea up to the spine in one go, without prior anesthesia. Allegedly, this causes the animal to pass out immediately. Jewish slaughterers also undergo special training and slaughter under rabbinical supervision.

This method is controversial among animal rights activists, however, because it cannot be ruled out that the animals may suffer an agonizing agony during slaughter. According to the German Animal Welfare Act (§ 4a), this slaughter method is forbidden: "A warm-blooded animal may only be slaughtered if it has been anesthetized for the purpose of slaughtering before the start of blood withdrawal." However, there are exceptions for religious communities.

Eating Kosher: Most important rules

Meat: Meat only becomes kosher through a special slaughter. (Source: epd / imago images)

Eating kosher is more complicated than it seems. Because there are many different rules. The five most important points are:

  1. Meat from split-hoofed mammals may be eaten, as can poultry meat. Pork, on the other hand, is forbidden.
  2. The meat must have been slaughtered in a kosher manner.
  3. Dairy products are allowed, but may not be cooked or consumed with meat.
  4. Fish species with scales and fins are allowed, shellfish are forbidden.
  5. Fresh fruit and vegetables are allowed.

Overview: what is allowed and what is forbidden

The following table divides the most common foods into kosher and non-kosher foods in more detail, so meet:

KosherNot kosher

Meat of cattle, goats, sheep, deer

Meat from pigs, horses, camels, rodents

Poultry meat from chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese

Meat of ostriches, birds of prey

Fish such as salmon, trout, herring, cod, flounder, carp, halibut, mackerel, tuna

Shellfish, eel, catfish, pangasius, monkfish

Dairy products from kosher animals (cream, butter, yogurt, soft cheese)

Cheese with animal rennet

Juices with one hundred percent fruit content

Grape juice

Eggs from kosher animals

Insects, worms, reptiles and amphibians

fruit and vegetables

Additives such as animal fats, gelatine, emulsifiers

Cereals, flour, sugar, salt

Borderline cases: only under rabbinical supervision

If you want to live strictly according to the Jewish faith, make sure that certain foods and products have been produced under rabbinical supervision. This is due on the one hand to the strict rules of the Jewish dietary laws and on the other hand to today's industrial production, which cannot always guarantee the label "kosher".

This applies primarily to meat products, but also to wine, cheese, milk and eggs, for example. In the US, kosher products are often labeled, which makes kosher lifestyle easier.

Passover rules: Kosher and unleavened

A special case is the Passover festival in spring, which commemorates the exodus of the Israeli people from slavery in Egypt. About a week before the actual festival, all grain products are removed from the apartment. In addition, the apartment is cleaned thoroughly.

On the eve of Passover, the Seder, the traditional unleavened flatbread matzo is eaten. Unleavened bread symbolizes the miserable slave life in Egypt. Another typical dish for Passover are the kosher "Pessach Blintzes", filled pancakes made from unleavened bread.

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