The Jewish diet and Kosher foods in the UK

Background

All aspects of Judaism (the Jewish religion) are taken from the Torah (Old Testament). It is important to remember that the Jewish people practice Judaism at various levels. Orthodox Jews strictly follow the religion and adhere to the Jewish dietary laws. They are also like to observe all Jewish festivals, including the Sabbath. Reform Jews are not likely to adhere to strict dietary laws and are unlikely to observe all Jewish festivals strictly. Liberal Jews do not feel obliged to follow the dietary laws but can follow them if they wish to do so. Liberal Jews do believe that all Jewish festivals should be followed (Thaker and Barton, 2012).

Kashrut is the word used for Jewish dietary laws regarding how food can be prepared and eaten and what foods can and cannot be eaten. Kosher is the word used for foods prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

London has one of the largest Jewish populations of approximately 200,000 people, outside of Israel and the US (Lever and Fischer, 2019). Outside of London in the UK, Manchester has one of the largest Jewish populations of approximately 40,000 people. The Jewish population grew in Manchester as the prices of property in London became more expensive. There has been growth in more strict Orthodox practicing Jews in Manchester (Lever and Fischer, 2019). Other Jewish communities can be found in Gateshead, Leeds, Glasgow and Sunderland (Thaker and Barton, 2012).

Jewish dietary laws and food restrictions (Adapted from Thaker and Barton, 2012)

  • All meat consumed must be from animals that have cloven hooves and chew the cud.
  • Poultry that can be consumed include duck, chicken, goose, turkey.
  • Forbidden animals include rodents, amphibians, reptiles, all insects. Eating game, hare, rock badger and pig is forbidden.
  • Kosher cuts of meat from the animal are from the front up to the twelfth rib.
  • A shochet (qualified person) must slaughter all poultry/meat. Shechita is the way that the meat is slaughtered.
  • Once the animal has been slaughtered, it is made kosher by draining all the blood. This involves covering the meat in salt.
  • Kosher fish must have fins and scales i.e. trout, cod, salmon, tuna, mackerel.
  • Milk and meat cannot be consumed together. One set of utensils, crockery, pots, cutlery etc. must be used for milk and another set used for meat.
  • Milk and meat food must be stored separately.
  • Kosher supervision is needed to eat products with grape juice.
  • All fresh fruits and vegetables are allowed but they cannot contain any insects.

Parev food (neutral food) is neither milk or meat. This includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, raw potatoes, raw rice, raw pasta, raw eggs, sweets, crisps, biscuits, chocolate. Parev foods can be served with milk or meat. Parev foods will become meat or milk depending on what is added to it or what it is cooked in i.e. pasta cooked in a parev saucepan is neutral until cheese or meat is added to it (Thaker and Barton, 2012).

Kosher Regulation and Certification

Kosher certification is one of the oldest certification systems in the world (Lever and Fischer, 2019). There are greater than 1,400 kosher certifying agencies worldwide. Kosher certification agencies take two forms – local (small scale) and industrial (large scale). Some of the largest industrial certification agencies include Star – K, Orthodox Union (OU), the Kosher London Beth Din (KLBD) and the Chicago Rabbinical Counsel (cRc). Some of these certification agencies are specific to regions i.e. KLBD for Europe, cRc for North America. Other certification agencies i.e. OU, Star-K, are worldwide (Ali and Nizar, 2018).

Some mainstream Jewish schools in the UK provide kosher foods from recognised kosher certified agencies. Some schools use the company Hermolis to provide pre-packed school meals. Some schools are able to provide their own kosher catering (Lever and Fischer, 2019).

There is a wide availability of kosher meat. The price of the meat increases when the strictness levels of assessing the product by certifying agencies, increases (Lever and Fischer, 2019).

Kosher production practices are becoming more complex; this is due to food production processes changing rapidly. In present times, an individual food product may contain over one hundred ingredients which can make it difficult for kosher inspectors (Lever and Fischer, 2019). Healthy eating is becoming more important for kosher consumers.

The Sabbath

The Sabbath is a day of rest and for spending time with family and friends. The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends after nightfall on Saturday. Three meals are eaten on the Sabbath.

Healthy foods for Sabbath meals could include

Starters: Fish, fruit or salad

Soup: Chicken soup (with fat removed and no pasta (vermicelli))

Main course: Grilled meat with rice, cooked meat salad, baked potato with steamed vegetables or salad

Desserts: Fruit, meringue, small portion of ice cream

The Passover

The Passover festival usually lasts eight days. The first and last two days of the Passover are similar to the Sabbath. It is forbidden to eat food from five types of grain that have been leavened, during this period i.e. barley, rye, wheat, spelt and oats. The staple food for the week is matzos. This is an unleavened bread (wheat has been in contact with water for a short period of time) (Thaker and Barton, 2012). Jews will observe the Passover at various levels of strictness. Some Jews will avoid eating bread throughout the period while others will eat matzos and purchase kosher food.

Why follow the kosher diet in today’s modern world?

Rabbi Shraga Simmons has given his words of wisdom on the ABC’s of Kosher at aish.com.

His reasons can be summarised as follows:

Kosher foods are eaten for spirituality. It instils self-discipline, being disciplined in what and when you eat. Kosher food can be perceived as healthier due to its close supervision. Following kosher procedures involves slaughtering animals with the least possible pain. Observing kosher keeps keeps a Jewish home ‘Jewish’. It re-enforces Judaism and the sacrifices made for Judaism.

Online Kosher Food Shopping UK

https://www.gokosupermarket.co.uk

https://www.justkosher.co.uk/

https://kosherkingdom.co.uk/

https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/food-cupboard/kosher

https://www.paperweight.org.uk/covid-19/kosher-food-delivery/

https://panzers.co.uk/

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/shop/food-cupboard/world-foods/kosher-groceries

Online Kosher Food Recipes

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/occasions/passover

https://jewishcookery.com

https://tasty.co/article/deenashanker/make-bubbe-proud

https://www.chabad.org/recipes/default_cdo/jewish/Kosher-Cooking.htm

https://www.readersdigest.co.uk/food-drink/recipes/3-amazing-jewish-recipes-you-need-to-try

https://kosherkingdom.co.uk/recipes-blogs/

https://jewishfoodhero.com

References:

Lever, J. & Fischer, J. 2019, Religion, regulation, consumption: globalising kosher and halal markets, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Ali, E.M. & Nizar, N.N.A. 2018, Preparation and processing of religious and cultural foods, Woodhead Publishing, an imprint of Elsevier, Cambridge, MA;Duxford;.

Thaker, A., Barton, A. & ProQuest (Firm) 2012, Multicultural handbook of food, nutrition and dietetics, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester [England].

https://www.aish.com/jl/m/mm/48958906.html

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