Meat, Dairy and Pareve
Keeping kosher is an intrinsic part of the daily life of a Jew. Understanding the fundamentals of kashrut is basic to the functioning of the Jewish home.
Kosher foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve. One of the basic principles of kashrut is the total separation of meat and dairy products. Meat and dairy may not be cooked or eaten together. To ensure this, the kosher kitchen contains separate sets of dishes, utensils, cookware, and separate preparation areas for meat and dairy. A third category, pareve, is comprised of foods which are neither meat nor dairy and may therefore be eaten with either.
The following section gives a detailed description of meat, dairy, and pareve foods, and offers practical guidelines for cooking and serving the foods within each category according to kosher specifications.
The category of meat includes meat, fowl and their byproducts, such as bones, soup or gravy. Any food made with meat or fowl, or with meat or fowl products, is considered “meaty;” also called fleishig (Yiddish). All meat, fowl and meat parts in any product, including items such as liver pills, must meet the following requirements to be considered kosher:
*Meat must come from an animal that chews its cud and has split hooves. Cows, sheep and goats are kosher.
*Kosher fowl is identified by a tradition handed down from generation to generation and universally accepted. The Torah names those species of fowl that are forbidden, including all predatory and scavenger birds. Kosher fowl include the domesticated species of chickens, Cornish hens, ducks, geese and turkeys.
*The animal or fowl must be slaughtered and examined according to the dietary laws by a shochet, an individual skilled and extensively trained in kosher slaughtering.
*The permissible portions of the animal and fowl must be properly prepared before cooking. All utensils must be kosher.
All foods derived from or containing milk are considered dairy, or milchig (Yiddish). This includes milk, butter, yogurt and all cheese – hard, soft and cream. Even a small amount of dairy in a food can cause the food to be considered dairy. All dairy products require kashrut certification. They must meet the following criteria in order to be certified kosher:
*They must come from a kosher animal.
*All ingredients must be kosher and free of meat derivatives. Non-kosher dairy products are often made with ingredients of animal origin. For example, hard cheese is made with rennet, yogurt sometimes contains gelatin, and butter may contain non-kosher additives.
*They must be processed on kosher equipment.
Many kinds of “non-dairy” creamers, candy, cereal and margarine do contain milk derivatives, as do some low-calorie sweeteners. Dairy ingredients whose names appear on many product labels include caseinate, lactose and whey.
Commercial bread containing dairy ingredients presents kashrut problems. Consult an Orthodox Rabbi before purchasing or using any dairy bread.
Foods that are neither meat nor dairy are called pareve. This means that they contain no meat or dairy derivatives, and have not been cooked or mixed with any meat or dairy foods.
Eggs, fish, fruit, vegetables, grains and juices in their natural, unprocessed state are common pareve foods. Other pareve foods include pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea, and many types of candy and snacks. Products that have been processed in any way should be brought only if they bear reliable kashrut certification.
Although pareve foods present fewer kashrut complexities than either meat or dairy food, certain points must be kept in mind:
*Pareve foods may lose their pareve status if processed on dairy equipment or when additives are used. The label may give no indication of this processing. There is a further problem in that such products are not chalav Yisrael. Chocolate, cookies and other snacks should not be used with meat or meaty foods unless they are certified pareve.
*Certain fruits, vegetables and grains must be checked for the presence of small insects and larvae.
*Eggs must be checked for the presence of blood spots.
SEPARATING MEAT AND DAIRY
Meat and dairy foods may not be cooked together or eaten together. One may not even derive benefit from a combination of meat and dairy foods; for example, selling such a combined product or feeding it to a pet.
To ensure this total separation, the kosher kitchen requires the use of separate utensils, accessories and appliances for meat and dairy. It is useful to have some separate pareve utensils as well.
The Waiting Time Between Eating Meat and Dairy: The laws of kashrut require that we wait a specified period of time between eating meat and eating dairy.
*After eating dairy and before eating meat, it is necessary to eat something pareve, which does not stick to the palate. Then one must rinse one’s mouth, or take a drink, and wash one’s hands. It is common practice to wait at least a half hour between dairy and meat. After eating certain hard cheeses, a six-hour waiting period is required.
*After eating meat foods, it is necessary to wait six full hours before eating any dairy. The six-hour waiting period is standard for all Jews, except those groups which have halachically established other customs. For people on special dairy diets, and for children under nine years old, consult an Orthodox Rabbi for guidance. If there are no special problems involved, it is advisable to train children at an earlier age in the practice of waiting between meat and dairy foods.
If a small piece of meat is discovered between the teeth, it is necessary to remove it and rinse the mouth, but an additional waiting period is not required (even if six hours have elapsed since eating meat). If even the smallest amount of food is chewed or swallowed, the full waiting period becomes necessary.
*If food is tasted but immediately eliminated from the mouth before chewing or swallowing, then no waiting period is required. One should rinse the mouth well.
NOTE: Meat and dairy foods may not be eaten in the same meal, even if they are in separate dishes and even if the waiting time elapses.
SERVING PAREVE FOODS
Pareve food can generally be served with either meat or dairy meals. Some kitchens have serving and mixing bowls, pots, and knives used exclusively for pareve food. These are always washed separately from meat and dairy dishes. One should also have separate dish sponges, dish towels, and draining boards.
If a pareve food, however, is cooked or mixed together with any meat or dairy products it becomes respectively either meat or dairy and all laws pertaining to meat and dairy apply, including the required waiting times.
If the pareve food has only touched the meat or milk food, then washing the food is sufficient to keep it pareve, if the two items that made contact are room temperature, and neither was a sharp or spicy food (such as those mixed with onion, lemon, pickles, etc., see Sharp and Spicy Pareve foods, below). If washing is impossible, one must cut off a layer from where the foods came in contact.
Pareve Foods Cooked in Meat or Dairy Utensils: When a pareve food has been cooked in a clean meat pot, one is generally required to serve that food only on meat dishes. A waiting time is not required before eating dairy food. Similarly, pareve food cooked in a clean dairy pot is generally served only on dairy dishes, and a waiting time is not required before eating meaty food.
If one cooks a pareve food in a clean meaty pot and wishes to serve it during a dairy meal, or vice versa, one should consult an Orthodox Rabbi as to whether the circumstance would make it permissible.
An important factor to bear in mind is whether the pot or utensils used to prepare the pareve food have been used with hot meat, or washed in hot water together with meaty dishes, within the last twenty-four hours. If so, this pareve food may certainly not be eaten with dairy products. The reverse is also true; if the pot or utensil used to prepare a pareve food has been used with hot dairy, or washed in hot water together with dairy dishes within the last twenty-four hours, then this pareve food certainly cannot be eaten with meat products. The waiting period, however, is not necessary.
Sharp and Spicy Pareve Foods: Using sharp and spicy foods such as onions, garlic, lemons, and pickles may change the pareve status of the food with which they were prepared. Sharp and spicy foods which are cut with a meaty knife are considered as a meat dish and may not be used with dairy foods, and vica versa.
If a sharp or spicy pareve food is cooked in a meaty pot or prepared with meaty utensils, even if the meaty pot or utensil was not used for hot meat food or washed in hot water together with meaty dishes within the last twenty-four hours, that pareve food may not be eaten with dairy. The reverse is also true; if the pot is dairy, the sharp or spicy pareve food cannot be eaten with meat. Concerning the waiting period for such foods, and the precise application of the terms sharp, spicy and hot, consult an Orthodox Rabbi.