Milk And Honey Kosher

Although it is a non-kosher insect, it produces a kosher product: the bee. Photo: Fotolia Of the myriad creatures that populate the world, insects serve as prominent examples of many interesting aspects of halacha and Jewish thought (hashkafa). For example, according to the Talmud (Makkot 16b), eating unkosher insects is punishable by lashes. At the same time, the ant is cited as an example of diligence and wisdom: “Go to the ant, you lazy one, observe its ways and become wise” (Proverbs of the Fathers 6:6). In addition, many important products come from insects, ranging from shellac, a resinous glaze, to cochineal, a red dye. Bees Probably the most famous product of an insect, however, is honey. To make it, bees collect nectar from flowers and process it in a cavity inside their bodies called the honey stomach. The sugar contained in the nectar is mainly sucrose, which is converted into glucose and fructose by enzymes produced by the bee itself. The bee concentrates the liquid by removing water from the inverted nectar. The result, honey, is stored as food for the bee colony. Humans have also used honey for thousands of years, and until the advent of refined sugar, it was the most commonly used sweetener. Although honey undoubtedly comes from a non-kosher insect, it is clearly kosher. It is unclear, however, why this is so. There are two different opinions on this. According to one (Talmud Brachot 6b), honey is permitted because it is not a direct product of the bee, but merely a flower nectar processed by it. Honey is kosher because it is not an actual excretion of an unkosher creature. kosher According to another opinion, honey is permitted because of a special halakhic category according to which some excretions of unkosher insects are nevertheless permissible by exception. However, the bottom line is that both opinions agree: Bee honey is kosher. The difference between the two rationales, however, is reflected in the halakhic treatment of honey that comes from other insects. The Talmud describes that honey is also produced by insects called tzirin and gizin. It is commonly referred to as “wasp honey.” While the exact translation of the names of the two insects mentioned in the Talmud remains unclear, they appear to be insects that produce honey from flower nectar in a manner similar to the bee. Therefore, since this is also merely processed flower nectar, the “wasp honey” would also have to be kosher, at least according to the first opinion described above. According to the second opinion, however, this is not the case. Only bee honey is simply called “honey”, while that from other insects is called “wasp honey”. A product whose name contains a reference to the non-kosher source is not permitted. Therefore, the majority of halakhic authorities prohibit the consumption of “wasp honey” despite its similar method of production. Metaphor Honey, however, is not only interesting from a halachic point of view, it is also a popular and recurring symbol. For Shavuot, which we celebrated a few days ago, honey has a special meaning. Because of its sweetness and nutritiousness, it is popularly used as a metaphor or symbol for the Torah. The Torah is also considered sweet by one who learns from its profound wisdom. The Torah is also considered nourishment for the soul. King Solomon said, “Honey and milk are under your tongue” (Shir Hashirim 4:11), referring to the words of the Torah spoken and learned by the people of Israel. For this reason, it is especially fitting to use honey on Shavuot, because the festival commemorates the preservation of the Torah. SZ-Magazin: Mr. Franz, you are called a culinary ambassador. What does that mean? Tom Franz: I don’t own a restaurant, but I cook at events in Israel and Germany or appear on television. And I give lectures. In Israel, I stand for the accuracy of European cuisine; in Germany, I stand for the diversity of Israeli and kosher cuisine, which are not identical. How does a German chef come to want to renew Israeli cuisine – and then to present it in Germany? After studying law in Cologne, I converted to the Jewish faith and then emigrated to Israel. At first I didn’t get a work permit there, but then I won a cooking competition on television, which gave me the opportunity to enter another profession in my early forties. I’m lucky that there’s a lot of interest in Israeli cuisine all over Germany right now: Feinkost Käfer held Israel weeks this summer, and several supermarkets in Berlin have opened with kosher products. How can such a difficult cuisine with confusing kosher rules become a trend in Germany? People are curious about Israel, and food and music are the first way to approach a country without prejudice. Another reason is probably the versatility of the cuisine. Over the past sixty years, immigrants from sixty nations have brought their recipes to Israel. On Friday nights at the buffet in the large hotels, dishes from Poland and Germany stand next to those from Yemen, Morocco and Lebanon; most of the waiters are Palestinian. The various immigrants also intermarry, which once again adds enormously to this cuisine. Is it even possible to try out kosher recipes without having to tear out your old kitchen? In a kosher kitchen, dairy and meat products must be really strictly separated, no plate, no pot may ever have come into contact with both. But kosher knows different gradations and degrees, kosher per se does not exist, but always only a “kosher enough”. What is kosher for one person is not necessarily kosher for the next, if he listens to another rabbi. However, my recipes are kosher in structure if you cook them with kosher products in a kosher kitchen. In an unkosher kitchen you cook with them at least kosher light or kosher style. However, it can’t get much more kosher in a non-kosher kitchen. How kosher are you yourself? I stick to the basic pillars, even more strictly at home in Israel than abroad. My house in Tel Aviv stays clean, I cook kosher in Israel as a matter of principle, it’s much easier there than in Europe. But even in Israel, only a minority of believers keep kosher. I have recently met many chefs who cook unkosher food in their restaurants, but very kosher at home. I almost want to say: It’s like a husband who cheats on his wife, but would never bring his girlfriend home. In Germany, you are less kosher? If I were to take the kosher rules very strictly, the most I would be allowed to drink in this Munich restaurant would be water from a plastic cup. If I order a salmon that has scales, as I do now, the animal is kosher. So are the vegetables, but the cuisine is not, so now I eat only kosher style or kosher light. However, when I am invited to my mother’s house, I even eat unsheathed chicken. There I am lenient and interpret the rules even further, it is already hard enough for my parents. Honoring mother and father is more important than eating kosher. What is not kosher? Pork, all shellfish and crustaceans. Giving up pork is not difficult for many people anyway. Seafood means a painful renunciation for me. I loved crab salad or grilled scampi as a child. Today, when I walk past grilled crabs on Sylt, I have to take a deep breath and force myself to keep going. And what is kosher? Poultry, lamb and beef. Permitted is the consumption of all ruminant cloven-hoofed animals. The pig is cloven-hoofed but not a ruminant, the horse also does not chew its cud and is not a cloven-hoofed animal. In nature there are more kosher than non-kosher foods: vegetables, fruits, fish with scales, eggs are kosher per se. However, one actually needs a kosher certificate from a rabbi, insofar then again many things are not kosher or not kosher enough. So the basic level is kosher food, then it counts where and how the food is prepared. Also, you need to pay attention to the order of eating: One may eat meat after dairy products, such as yogurt soup first, then bread, then a steak. However, one would not be allowed to eat beef carpaccio and for dessert a vanilla ice cream made with cream. How are we to imagine this? The rabbis assign three grades from kosher for believers to kosher light for those with a more lax understanding of the faith? No, there are not three levels of any one rabbi, but rather an infinite number of rabbis of varying strictness, some of whom allow one another to eat according to the kosher rules of one colleague, but not according to those of another. The highest requirements are for ultra-Orthodox: they eat only meat that is considered “smooth,” meaning that the lungs of an animal must not have a bulge or a hole, because that could be taken as a sign that the animal would not have survived six months. After glatt come the very high, but quite inconsistent requirements of the Orthodox rabbis and finally the traditional basic rules of kashrut, which every supermarket in Israel adheres to. However, one must think the gradation in both directions: There are unkosher products and actually kosher products without certificate, which are already less unkosher. There are also people who would say to monkfish, for example: Okay, it’s not kosher fish, but it’s not pork, it’s not crustacean, it’s not un-shechitaed beef, but it’s fish. Anything that is not completely un-kosher is a little bit kosher. How do you tell how kosher food is in the supermarket and which rabbi allows you to eat it? By the stamp. All rabbis have their own kosher supervisors, even in the USA or Germany. They have to keep a close eye on which butcher is slaughtering and how. Slaughtering – that’s what the traditional killing of animals is called among Muslims and Jews. The animals are not shot in the head, but are bled. All blood is removed as far as possible, in Judaism there is a ban on the consumption of blood. Actually, this also applies to Christians, but it is not observed. During industrial slaughter, animals release a lot of adrenaline. Is slaughtering better for the cattle and their meat? Some claim to be able to taste whether the beef has been slaughtered or butchered. I can’t, although of course the non-slaughtered animal is fundamentally juicier. Is kosher meat healthier? No, after all, there is a kosher “McDonalds” and other junk food. But kosher cuisine has more vegetarian and vegan dishes, and people eat more consciously. Since I’ve been cooking kosher, I eat better, if only because my cooking skills have developed. Kosher food also strengthens family life because you eat at home much more often. It’s really difficult to eat out, to trust a strange cook, even if you’re told that the rabbi checks the kitchen every six months. Did you realize that converting to Judaism would turn your whole life upside down? I went to Israel for the first time 25 years ago when I was 16, and I tried eating kosher in phases after that, out of curiosity, not because I was a believer. When I converted and went to Israel long after my law degree, I had been pregnant with the intention for eight years. Was a woman the reason for your conversion? It was my decision alone, which is not to say that there was no woman in my life during those eight years. I didn’t meet my wife until a month after my conversion and my move from Cologne. Perfect timing. Did you start cooking for her sake? I won her over with my cooking skills – although of course a lot was already decided with the first eye contact. But my wife has done PR work for many good restaurants for a long time and knows a lot about cooking. After the first bite of my food, tears welled up in her eyes, she put her fork aside and asked: “Where did you learn to do that? When all I’ve ever done is cook so that it tastes good to me. What recipe did you use to win your wife over? It was more that she was inspired by my way of cooking, not by a single dish. We both can’t remember the first one, there were so many after that, food was central to our life together for a number of years. We went out a lot and always started preparing Sabbath dinner for friends on Thursday night. Once in a cab we were discussing the menu order, and the cab driver asked, distraught, “Do you have a catering company? A cab driver gave you the idea to work as a cook? No. My wife wanted me to become Masterchef which is a big cooking competition on Israeli television that lasts six months. I didn’t want to. Twice I refused, then my wife almost died of blood poisoning after the birth of our second son, I took care of our children for a long time. After that, she persuaded me to take care of my career and participate in the third season. Now I can hardly save myself from offers to cook events and TV shows. Winning the TV competition has made you a star chef in Israel in one fell swoop … Our food is coming. Oh dear, the vegetables are steamed in butter. No problem, fish is allowed to come into contact with dairy products, but not meat. My mother still gets confused. It is not logical. Judaism itself admits this. Everyone understands the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”, but no one understands that of kosher food. It is a divine commandment, delivered by Moses. And Moses really said: Eat no more shellfish? That is the crucial question: whether the commandments were delivered by Moses or invented by people. One tries to explain the commandment in such a way that the eating of shellfish was dangerous, because they are difficult to keep fresh. On the other hand, you can get them fresh by the sea. So why do they forbid pork? As I said, the rules of kosher food are not logical. With one exception: after eating meat, you have to take a six-hour break from dairy products. Meat is digested more slowly. This is the only sensible kosher rule. But I am even less convinced by the rational explanations than by the possibility of a divine origin; I can live with that better. Chefs usually look for inspiration in Michelin-starred restaurants. You can hardly do that. It’s really difficult: there is not a single kosher starred restaurant in the world. At least three restaurants manage to be listed in the Michelin Michelin list. We first have to show what we can do. Even the top chefs in Israel have only started opening kosher restaurants in the last year and a half. They now often have three non-kosher ones and an additional kosher one, usually in a hotel. And it takes time for a chef to get to the point of being able to compose freely within the narrow kosher boundaries. Are kosher restaurants more expensive? The stricter the kosher requirements, the more expensive. It matters more for meat, but not much for dairy products. Above all, kosher restaurants are not open on the Sabbath, which lasts from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening. Two evenings are lost, which is expensive. A kosher cook has to believe a little bit that he is on a mission from the Lord. – Tom Franz did a bank apprenticeship, then studied law and worked as a lawyer in Cologne. In 2004, he emigrated to Israel, where he won the cooking show “Masterchef” last year. Franz is currently filming the TV series “Mit Tom Franz durch Israe “l for Arte. The 41-year-old’s cookbook: “So schmeckt Israel” (AT-Verlag)

Kosher recipes

Tom Franz says, “If you’re a fan of potato pancakes like I am, love sweet potatoes like I do, and love to experiment in the kitchen like I do, one day you’ll ask yourself what a burger tastes like when you swap ingredients.” Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Burger with Chive Sauce For 6-8 servings For the burgers 500 g sweet potatoes, peeled and medium coarsely grated 300 g pumpkin, peeled and medium coarsely grated 300 g waxy potatoes, peeled and grated medium coarse 3 tbsp. flour 2 eggs 1⁄2 packet baking powder 1⁄2 tsp. thyme, dried 1⁄4 tsp. cayenne pepper salt and ground black pepper 2-3 tbsp. olive oil For the chive sauce 200 g sour cream 4 tbsp. mayonnaise 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely crushed 1 bunch chives, cut into small rolls 1⁄2 tsp honey 1 tbsp white wine vinegar salt and black pepper from the mill Mix the burger sweet potatoes, pumpkin, potatoes, flour, eggs, baking powder, thyme and cayenne pepper well in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let stand, covered, for about half an hour. If the mixture is too liquid, add some more flour (potato flour is preferred). If it has become too compact, stir in some water. Lightly heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the mixture by the spoonful into golden brown burgers. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. The chive sauce Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let stand for at least 1 hour. – This skillet dish with eggs can now be found on many cafe breakfast menus, and almost every self-respecting great chef has his personal version on the menu. Shakshuka For 6 servings 6 tbsp. olive oil 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped Salt 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced 1 green chili bell pepper, cut into rings 10 tomatoes 1⁄2 tsp. cumin, ground 1⁄2 tsp. chili powder 1 tsp. paprika, noble sweet 100 ml tomato paste black ground pepper 6 small eggs (2 eggs per serving to taste), set to room temperature 1 handful parsley leaves Heat olive oil in a skillet, sauté onions with a little salt until translucent and soft. Add garlic and chili pepper, fry over light to medium heat until ingredients begin to brown. Cut the tomatoes into rough cubes. Add the spices to the pan and let them get hot. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer over light heat until reduced by about a quarter. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy and no more water from the tomatoes should be visible. Season with salt and pepper. Once the sauce is ready, beat the eggs one at a time in a small bowl and slide them into the simmering sauce. Add a little salt to the egg whites as you do so. Cook the eggs without covering them. Sprinkle with parsley leaves. – Classic falafels are deep-fried balls prepared from chickpeas and herbs. In Israel, they are sold on the street in stalls. They are eaten in a pita with salads, vegetables and tahina or hummus. Or with other sauces, also often spicy, such as zhug. A delicate alternative to these classics are falafels with mushrooms. On tabouleh salad and with goat yogurt sauce street food becomes a refined plate dish. Mushroom falafels on tabouleh salad with goat yogurt sauce For 6-8 servings For the falafels 50 g butter 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped Salt 3 cloves of garlic, peeled 600 g mushrooms Black pepper from the mill 80 g cream cheese 80 g freshly grated Parmesan 1 tablespoon flour 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg For the breading 1 l oil for deep frying Flour 1 beaten egg Breadcrumbs or Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) For the tabouleh salad 200 g bulgur 4 cups leaf parsley, finely chopped 2 cups cilantro leaves, finely chopped 1 cup mint leaves, finely chopped 5 tablespoons olive oil juice of 1/2 lemon salt and ground black pepper For the dressing 400 g goat yogurt 1 1/2 tablespoons liquid honey 1 tablespoon wine vinegar salt and ground black pepper For the falafel Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. While doing this, add a ½ teaspoon of salt. Crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of a kitchen knife, then finely chop and mix with the onions. Saute for another 10 minutes over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and cut them into cubes as small as the onions. Mix the mushroom cubes with the onion-garlic mixture and cook the whole thing over medium heat, turning regularly, until the liquid from the mushrooms has almost evaporated. This mixture is called duxelles. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. Now mix the duxelles with cream cheese, parmesan cheese, flour and nutmeg. You want it to be a smooth mixture that is easy to shape. If the dough is too wet, add as much flour as needed to bind the liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Heat the oil in a high pot. The optimal temperature for frying is 170 degrees. Form walnut-sized balls from the falafel mixture with wet hands. Roll them successively in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Fry the falafel balls in small portions for 2-3 minutes at a time until golden brown. It is important to fry small amounts at a time so that the temperature remains constant. Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. The Tabouleh Salad Soak the bulgur in 500 ml of lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Then drain it over a sieve. Mix the bulgur with the above ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. The sauce Thoroughly mix the above ingredients together and refrigerate. Dressing Lay out the tabouleh salad on the plate and place three mushroom falafels on top for each person. Either serve the sauce separately in a small bowl or place it next to the salad. Illustrations: Rutu Modan Kosher spirits are distilled in Hanover (Deutschlandradio / Agnes Bührig) The land where milk and honey flow, that’s how Israel likes to advertise itself. In the video of the whiskey distillery M&H from Tel Aviv, this luxurious life can be seen: relaxed people on a warm evening in an open-air bar, glasses flowing with “Milk and Honey,” the name of the whiskey distillery, the first of its kind in Israel. Founded in 2012, it has been exporting its single malt to Germany since the beginning of the year. Produced kosher, of course. “Raw materials and vessels must be kosher”. Kosher – anyone who wants to advertise this quality needs a certificate. It is issued by rabbis from the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany, among others. Like Benjamin Wolff. On holidays, he preaches in the Orthodox synagogue Chabad Lubavitch in Hanover; on weekdays, companies can hire him if they are aiming for kosher production, says Benjamin Wolff. “For example, if a company wants to make a product that should be kosher. Then we make an appointment, we sit together, we look at what raw materials are coming in and what the production process is. And if the raw materials are kosher and the containers are also kosher, then the product is kosher – and then you can certify that.” Animals must be bled before they are eaten, eating dairy and meat products at the same time is not allowed, and seafood is off-limits. These and other rules are written in the Torah. According to traditional counting, the Hebrew Bible contains 613 commandments of God, divided into three categories, says Benjamin Wolff. There are commandments that are logically understandable, such as not stealing, those that commemorate a historical event, and those that cannot be explained by humans. The latter category includes dietary rules, the rabbi says. “We don’t understand why we can’t eat pork. There is no logical explanation, there is no human explanation. We don’t see that Jews who eat kosher are healthier than Jews who don’t eat kosher. We believe that God gave the Jews these laws. He has His reason, that’s why He gave them.” “Fruit brandies are popular in many communities” Jewish dietary rules also apply at Lister Distille in northern Hanover. Here, “Simons of Hannover” has had its fruit brandies, liqueurs and three types of gin produced for two years. For the first time since World War II, there is now a Jewish company producing kosher food in the capital of Lower Saxony, says Marc Simon, who grew up in the Jewish community of Cologne. He founded the company together with his wife Katharina, also Jewish, who grew up in the Czech Republic. In their youth in Prague, high-proof drinks were part of the festivities, because alcohol is not forbidden in Judaism. On the Jewish festival of Purim, it is even a kind of religious duty to get drunk, says Katharina Simon: “In many Jewish communities, this is very popular and beloved, to drink fruit brandies, because very many families came from Eastern Europe, and in Eastern Europe is a tradition in general, to drink fruit brandies, especially varieties like cherry brandy or plum, the Slibowitz. And the families, they live now also in Israel, America, everywhere in the world, until now, they know the tradition from the grandpas or grandmas. That’s why it’s very popular until now.” It all depends on the source Together with master distiller Roland Schulze, Katharina Simon has put her idea of kosher alcohol production into practice. A mash of cherries is stirred in a 150-liter still, a kettle made of copper, and thus kept at a constant temperature. After multiple distillation, the liquid goes into a barrel made of white oak. No contents may have been in it before that were not kosher, says Roland Schulze. “Yes, it definitely has to be new, that’s one thing, and then of course the usual thing, that there’s no meat or animal ingredients that have come into contact with it in any form, perhaps for preservation.” Spirits are not forbidden in Judaism – but most are not kosher (picture alliance / dpa / Britta Pedersen) Schulze himself is not Jewish, but is happy to make his distillery available. Rabbi Benjamin Wolff checks that the rules for kosher products are being observed there during regular visits. The blue dye sepia, for example, which is extracted from squid, is taboo – not only is it animal, but it is also a seafood forbidden in Judaism. And other substances that are of animal origin may not be used either, says Benjamin Wolff. “For example: sometimes gelatin is used to make the drinks more clear, and gelatin sometimes comes from meat or animal sources. That has to be controlled: Is there gelatin or not? If there is gelatin – does it come from animal source or natural source? For example, agar agar, that’s a type of gelatin that’s kosher because it comes from natural source, not life source, that’s kosher.” “Creating positive experiences with Judaism.” Plants are such an allowable natural source. But whether a fruit brandy or a gin is kosher, you can’t taste it out in the end. For Marc Simon, however, it’s also about more than taste. For the observant Jew, a kosher fruit brandy also stands for Jewish culture, like a raki for Turkish or an ouzu for the Greek way of life. “It’s about German-Jewish symbiosis, it’s about celebrating together, creating positive experiences with Judaism as well, so to speak. Ordinary citizens who go to the supermarkets and buy our bottles contribute a bit to bringing tolerance and understanding for Judaism into society, but it’s also a sign of worldliness in general when you consume a kosher brandy or a kosher gin.” Marc Simon pours a sip of “Ginger Red” into a glass, his company’s newest ginger liqueur. It’s a bit like organic, he says: no dyes, no additives, and the red color comes solely from 100 percent cherry juice. Well then: Cheers! Or: Le Chaim! – Here’s to life! Milk And Honey Kosher.

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