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Is Rennet Kosher? (Maybe Cheese Can’t Be Kosher???)

Rennet, it does a cheese good.

Rennet is the ingredient that allows milk to change from liquid into cheese.

There is a great misunderstanding regarding the concept of Rennet in the making of Kosher Cheese. Many believe that if cheese is made with animal rennet, there would be a violation of Basar vChalav (the prohibition of mixing/eating meat and diary).  I am glad to say that would not be the case.  How the animal rennet is obtained is where there is much concern though. Our sages made a ban on cheese that was made by non-Jews because of the fear that perhaps a piece of stomach was put in the milk and that is what made the cheese.

Everybody probably knows the story of how cheese came to being.  Once upon a time, there was a nomad that put his milk in his canteen pouch (made from an animal stomach) and went on his journey.  When he arrived to his destination he took the top off of the pouch held it to his mouth for a drink and out came a coagulated kind of cheesy thing.d  How did that happen? Well the heat warmed up the stomach bag as well as the milk that was in the pouch.  The rennen that was in the stomach lining acted on the milk and started the process of making curds.

So we see that it is true that by putting milk in side a dried animal stomach we can get curdled milk.  Is it kosher, no.  But what is rennet really?  Can it truly be Kosher?

Rennet is from an enzyme found in the 4th stomach of a kosher animal (animals that chew their cud have 4 stomachs).  It is known and documented that milk that has been obtained from non-kosher mammals can not be made into cheese.  The milk will simply not coagulate under normal circumstances.  So everybody that has heard of the Camel cheese craze, you need to understand that the Camel milk was combined with kosher milk,  and the kosher milk is making the cheese not the Camel milk.  This is even brought down in Rambam Halacha #12 which states in his sefer Mishnah Torah section Ma’achalot Assurot – Chapter 3:12

Halacha 12

The milk of a non-kosher animal will not congeal and solidify as the milk of a kosher animal does. If the milk of a non-kosher animal is mixed together with the milk of a kosher animal, when the mixture is [set aside for cheese to be made], the kosher milk will solidify and the non-kosher milk will be expelled together with the whey of the cheese.

In order for Rennet to be kosher though the animal needs to be schechted (slaughtered according to Jewish law) and deveined according to halacha (Jewish law).  Once this is done the milk stuff that is the stomach and full of rennin is removed and that is what is used to make milk (from a kosher animal) into cheese.  As this milk stuff has been already digested it does not have a status of food.

Since the process involved is time consuming and very expensive it is very rare that you will find Kosher rennet from an animal.

I read that there is someone in Israel that stated he is making rennet from the stomach of either cows or goats that had been killed on the road.  It would be true that he is making rennet, but the cheese that he makes from it is not fit for Jewish kosher consumption as the animal is a Nevaila (died from disease or injury).

All vegetable based coagulants (such as fig juice as used in days long gone) are Kosher, but only if they are added to milk by a Torah observant Jew will the cheese be kosher.  This is because of a halachic restriction from the time of the mishna

All Microbial enzyme is generally kosher and will follow the same rules as vegetable based coagulants (though it’s possible it may be grown on a non-kosher medium, and therefore should be checked or certified before purchase or use).

Feel free to enjoy some kosher cheese with your Shavuos holiday meals!

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The best Lasagna in Israel

The best Lasagna in Israel

lasagnaIf somebody comes to ISRAEL in the 2 weeks around Shavus they will think that Israelis eat only Lasagna and Cheese cake with the 9% cheese and instant pudding. The supermarkets are welcoming you with stands stacked with packs of Lasagna noodles at bargain prices .

I grow up on sweet cheese blintzes for Shavous and a borscht drink, with stories from my mother (may she keep being with us for long time) on her home in Anthopol. And how they started to prepare the borscht on Chanukah , putting the beets in wooden barrels. The home made blintzes tasted so wonderful, but my mother used to say “ but this is nothing compare to the blintzes my mother  z”l used to prepared”, it was made from home made butter and home made cheese from fresh milk (the cow they used to have in their back yard to make sure they have Chalav Yisrael available to them).

Somehow when we got married slowly we moved from the traditional blintzes to the “Israeli” lasagnea.  It was easy to make (I always was embarrassed that I am deciding what dish to make based on how much less time it takes, (excuse me Grandma Rachel) and seems was a winner with family and guests.

This year I knew we are going to use my husband home made cheeses, and decided to check it with my lasagna recipe. I used the homemade Dovid’s Ricotta and the Caerphilly (Welsh Cheddar). I will be honest and say I was not sure it it will be that yumee, and will pass the taste buds of our son and my mother.

I was not sure if these delicate cheeses without all the stabilizers will make it firm.

It was a surprise this was the best lasagna ever. A winner. Great (and healthier for children) and great for the most finiky of taste buds.


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Making Your Own Cheese

Making Your Own Cheese

Making Your Own Cheese
Cheese Platter for Shavuos

There are many reasons that making your own cheese is something that can turn into more than just a hobby.  Below I have given a few reasons why I like to make my ownkosher cheese.

<- This was a cheese platter that I made for Shavuos a few years ago.  The fresh mozzarella was stuffed with smoked Salmon.

1.) You know your kashrut – the ingredients it contains. If you want to have a Chalav Yisrael cheese, you can make it with Chalav Yisrael cultures and Chalav Yisrael Milk. If Chalav Yisrael is not important then almost all cultures that you will find will be Kosher (Chalav Stam). They will be either OK-D/OU-D Stam.

2.) No artificial ingredients, preservatives, stabilizers.

3.) It can save you up to sixty percent of your dairy expenses (depending on the type of cheese you want to make).

4.) Making your own cheese connects you to nature.  As you begin the process, you should look for the best milk. In Israel, it is not so easy, as most if not all dairy farms have contracts with the major dairy companies here. But you can find some small goat farms that will help you out. Even though you are able to make cheese straight from the supermarket, knowing where the milk came from will add much more character to your cheese.

5.) It’s not an expensive hobby. All you need is a pot, thermometer, cheese cloth and basic cheese-making ingredients to be on your way to making cheese whenever you wish.

6.) Children love it. Kids love to make cheese and eat it. Cheese-making is a great activity for children to participate while learning. Cheese-making is also a unique way to teach science and chemistry to home-schooled children.

7.) It tastes great. No matter what type of cheese you make, you will be able to eat it. Some of the most famous rare cheeses were made by accident. Even if you think you made a big mistake with your cheese, just drain, salt and try it. You may not ever be able to repeat it (unless you kept notes), but you can enjoy it while it lasts.

8.) Cheese is a special treat. Homemade cheese will always be a winner at a party, a Kiddush, or a family gathering.

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Pig DNA found in Chocolate

Traces of pig DNA were found in Cadbury chocolate bars in Malaysia.

The Muslims have there own kosher laws, and their religion prohibits the consumption of or contact with pigs.  Naturally they were very upset with the finding of pig DNA in this candy bar .  Since the British chocolate company was purchased by Kraft Foods, questions were raised regarding the opig dnather dairy products of Kraft (like Oreo cookies).  (In the past pig milk, a very fatty milk, could be used to “enhance the quality” of cow milk or compensate for watering down the cow milk.)

Suddenly it becomes clear for the Kosher consumer that the whole issue of Chalav Stam vs Chalav Yisrael (cow milk in a Western Country under national standards versus Fully Kosher Supervised & Milked Milk) is not so simple. We are no longer in the days when food things were simple.  With all the modified additives that are popping up in the food industry, the unknowns become bigger and bigger.

(Interestingly butter made from Chalav Stam is permitted, as milk from non-kosher animals won’t churn into butter – at least it wouldn’t in the past.  Nowadays food technology can overcome the problem by adding additional oils– meaning butter today requires kosher supervision to guarantee it does not include non-kosher ingredients or come from non-kosher animals.)

Historically the restriction that was made was on milk from non-Jewish dairy farms was on liquid milk only, not on milk powder (what is used in most chocolate bars).  Yet we find the ingredients of milk powder are NO LONGER ONLY MILK… Milk Powder: nonfat dry milk, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3, sweet dairy whey, non fat dry milk solids, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and high fructose corn syrup. (Source)

Those ingredients are of particular note for those concerned about what corn products are doing to children and some of the behavior problems they are having, as well as diabetics or anyone with blood sugar problems.
For the kosher consumer they might be interested in all of the ingredients as well as the vegetable oil, the source and purity of each of which must be checked to make sure it’s not coming from a non-kosher source.

I myself am not in panic mode but it does make me think that when we looking at a heter (an easing or way around a restriction) in halacha (Jewish law), we need to truly look to see what the final impact will be.  The the food industry has become so complicated that maybe it is time for us to go back to purer or simpler sources such as, for the kosher consumer, dairies that follow fully kosher standards and supervision.  simple way of life and just go back to Jewish Milk.  Just food for thought.

Wishing all of you Happy Shavous and that you receive the Torah with Joy.