Monday, November 14, 2011

Food news 2

Here's the original.

Glatt gluten, so to speak
I recently noticed that the lentils that I've been buying, which have a hechsher (symbol indicating that it's kosher), also have a notice stating that the package contains soy and wheat. Oy. I have two friends who can't eat wheat, and another one who can't eat any grain containing gluten. Fortunately, Larry and Malka Esther Lennhoff were kind enough to refer me to KosherQuest's No Certification Needed page, which states that dried beans do not need rabbinical supervision. I can only hope that any lentils I buy in the future, be they with or without a hechsher, don't contain gluten if the package doesn't list gluten--I don't know how strict the law is regarding allergen-listing.

Bugging out 2: My more recent reading
Naturally, I can't find it now, but last week I saw an online chart from the Orthodox Union giving a standing-on-one-foot version of how to check certain fruits and vegetables for insects, etc. According to the chart, one must worry about beans being worm-infested. Say what?! Now, not only do I have to worry about my lentils being gluten-free, I also have to soak them for half an hour and throw out whichever beans float to the top, if I remember correctly.

Worse yet, you should have seen the instructions for checking fresh broccoli--you're supposed to boil the florets briefly, then open them up and check for bugs in every place where two branches meet. Judging by the comments to Food News 1 (and some quotes from previous posts and comments that I included therein), there are differences of opinion within the Orthodox community as to how strict one must be in checking food for bugs. That's certainly good news. If every Orthodox Jew followed the current veggie-checking rules to the letter, it would be a wonder if any Orthodox Jew ever eat fresh vegetables and/or fresh fruit at all. Were our ancestors nearly as obsessed about insects in food, or is this something new under the sun?

Is there a mandoline in my future?
I follow a link from this "carnivals" post by Ilana-Davita to This American Bite's Kosher Cooking Carnival, where this recipe for Zucchini Pasta caught my eye, not only because of the ingredients but also because of the gadget displayed in the post--I'd never heard of a julienne peeler. Wow--you mean I could julienne veggies for stir-frying without buying another attachment for the food processor, which is hardly worth the effort of cleaning when you're cooking for only two? So I zipped over to ye friendly housewares store and procured myself a julienne peeler. Unfortunately, my new kitchen gadget has a safety cover for when it's not in use, but not for when it is in use. I'm seriously concerned that, unless I pay careful attention every second that I'm using this utensil, it might julienne my finger along with the carrot. Could any of my culinarily-gifted readers recommend an alternative that's equally easy to use and clean but safer?

A serious kashering problem?
My poor husband, trying to do the right thing by making Shabbat dinner this past early-sundown Friday, forgot that the pasta he was cooking--ravioli--contained cheese, and cooked it in a parve pot. In the good old days, this would not have been a big deal--we would simply have boiled up the pot and the lid and taken them back to parve. Our newest pot, however, has a tempered-glass lid, as is true of many pots nowadays. How on earth can one kasher a lid with a metal rim (which one kashers by boiling), a hard plastic knob ((which one also kashers by boiling), and a tempered-glass main section (kashered by soaking in cold water for three days?)? Sure, we can kasher one of our old dairy pots (with a metal lid) and make it parve, but what's going to to happen the next time we make a mistake? Advise needed. I'm sending this one to my "G-d Squad," in the hope that my rabbinical and/or cantorial acquaintances will be able to assist us.

Oh, by the way, see the first comment here, and add a few, if you'd like.


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

I don't think our ancestors had anywhere near the access to vegetables we do - not just out of season, but the sheer variety. Remember that Polish Jews have the custom of using potatoes as their green vegetable for the seder to get some idea of how limited the choices were.

The OU will happily tell you all the arguments about kashering glass, but won't tell you which opinion to uphold:
Glass is controversial. According to one opinion, glass does not have to be kashered at all because its surface is so smooth that it cannot absorb any flavor. Another opinion maintains exactly the opposite. Glass cannot be kashered or used at all on Pesach because it is made of sand and is Halachically considered earthenware. There is also a third opinion that maintains that glass has the Halachic status of metal and can be kashered. According to this third opinion, how does one kasher glass without breaking it? If the glass never contained hot liquids, it can be kashered by simply cleaning and rinsing it. If it was only occasionally used for hot liquids, there is a Halachic debate as to whether it can be kashered. According to the Shulchan Aruch, (see 451:25) if it was mostly used for cold liquids it can be kashered with Shetifah.
According to the Remah however, if it were occasionally used for hot liquids, it must undergo Hagalah and if Hagalah would destroy it, it cannot be kashered at all. Accordingly, many Ashkenazi families buy new glassware for Pesach. Others have the custom, to kasher glass by the process known as Milui Veirui. This process requires the glassware to be entirely immersed in cold water for 72 hours provided that the water is changed every 24 hours (see Shulchan Aruch 451:25 and Mishnah Berurah note 154 and note 21.)

< talks about glass lids in particular:
Used glass lids (and pots) can be Kashered
You should unscrew the knob and thoroughly clean the lid (or pot) from any food remanent.
Wait 24 hours since last used hot, then boil water in a clean pot that wasn’t used for 24 hours and immerse the lid when the water is bubbling so the water covers the lid totally (even if not in one go).
There are alternative ways, this is the easiest.

Also, if you wind up not being able to kasher the pot, the Rema says that if you cook non-'spicy' pareve food in a pot that hasn't been used for 24 hours it stays pareve and does not become dairy or meat equipment.

Tue Nov 15, 08:38:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...


True about less access to out of season vegetables, but the potato thing is actually a quirk of history more than anything else.

Potatoes are NOT indigenous to Europe, they are a "new world" vegetable. They arrived in Europe from the Americas in the 16th or 17th century. Because they are so easy to grow and store well, they quickly become a staple food of impoverished areas. They can store in a dark box for a trip back to Europe (months then). When they sprout, you can put them in the ground and get more potatoes. You can dig them up and store them for months.

They also hold up reasonably well in the winter.

Contemporary practice is to dig a deep hole, plant a potato at the bottom, and keep adding soil as the plant grows up, as you cover the plant, it will drop the leaves and add roots there, growing more potatoes. Eventually, you have a big mound, then when the plant dies back from frost, you dig it all up and have a bunch of potatoes, and they can store through the winter in a dark cold place (they won't sprout in a cold dark storage).

They'll grow in just about ANY soil conditions and store for months, making them a staple. However, the suggestion that they are the "historic Jewish food" requires history to START after the discovery of the Americas.

The "Pale of Settlement" that the Jews were allowed to farm was given to the Jews because the land is relatively worthless, long winters, terrible soil, short growing seasons, etc., causing Ashkenazim to adapt to these conditions. Had Italian Jews become the cultural dominant group instead of Polish Jews, we'd all be eating VERY different foods.

In ancient Judea, the Spring time harvest was first becoming available and Pesach served as a feast of such foods, hence why Sephardic tradition is SO much richer with foods.

So saying "our ancestors" and then talking about Polish Jews takes a relatively small segment of contemporary Jews... many Jews are NOT defended from Polish immigrants, and certainly not exclusively from them.

Tue Nov 15, 09:44:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Miami Al - I made the same complaint to someone the other day who was talking about how wonderful it was to eat nothing but 'traditional Jewish foods - baked chicken, cholent, kugel, fish' on Shabbat. And here I am doing it myself! Oy!.

Tue Nov 15, 10:00:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

>>Had Italian Jews become the cultural dominant group instead of Polish Jews, we'd all be eating VERY different foods.<<

That would have been so cool. Undoubtedly, we would all be a lot healthier, too.

Tue Nov 15, 12:46:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ah, yes, here's a short history of how we Eastern-European Ashkenazi Jews became so dependent on the potato, a vegetable of Peruvian origin (or so I've heard). Indeed, the diet of the Mediterranean Sefardim and the B'nei Edot HaMizrachi of the Middle East does seem much more varied, and we food-poor East.-Euro Askenazim would certainly be the richer, culinarily-speaking, and probably the healthier, for following their example, as TOTJ Steve said.

Larry, your kashering instructions are a typical "two Jews, three opinions" story. Sit tight, and I'll post another opinion that I received via e-mail.

Tue Nov 15, 04:53:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Received via e-mail from Rabbi Barry Leff:

Hi Shira,

Technically glass is considered non-absorbent and does not require kashering at all. There is an argument about whether glass absorbs at high temperature or not. I’m of the school of thought that it does not. If you or your rabbi is of the school of thought that it does, it’s a separate issue.

Technically, your problem isn’t the glass, it’s the fact that the pot has separate pieces, and something could have gotten in between the pieces. Some would say an object like that can’t be kashered at all.

But if we look at the intent of the kashering process, in this case it would be to insure that your parve pot lid will not transmit a taste of dairy to something you might serve with a meat meal. In my humble opinion, a simple trip through the dishwasher would suffice, because at the end of it there won’t be any “dairy taste” left to transmit, and the hot water and strong soap in the dishwasher would certainly render anything trapped in the crevices of your metal rim “tam lifgam,” a disgusting taste, which does not transmit anything.

But I would still dip the lid in boiling water for ritual purposes. It won’t hurt the glass, which as mentioned technically doesn’t need kashering anyway.

Kol tuv,


Tue Nov 15, 05:04:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Glass cannot be kashered or used at all on Pesach because it is made of sand and is Halachically considered earthenware."

I don't accept that argument at all--in my admittedly-undereducated opinion, glass is "davar chadash," a "new thing" whose source/origin is unrecognizable (due to a chemical change?).

I'm inclined to go with just giving the lid another good scrubbing, waiting another 24 hours, and then boiling the entire lid in water.

Tue Nov 15, 05:34:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

We've just finished listening to the live webcast of Rabbi Ethan Tucker's shiur/lecture #3 (of 6) on "Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher World," for which a video will eventually be posted here on the Mechon Hadar website, and, as a result, my husband has come up with a plan--he thinks we should first boil the lid, to nullify any taam/flavor that might have been absorbed by the metal rim and the hard-rubber knob , then soak it in cold water for three days, to kasher the glass. We hope that's muttar (permissible) as a kashering method.

Tue Nov 15, 09:40:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Leora said...

A cool book on how Polish Jews ate is They Called Me Mayer July - food certainly isn't the main topic, but it interested me! There was some kind of weedy green that they ate that I can't remember, and there was also the stuff that makes schav (sour grass?). In terms of healthy, they also ate fermented food. Not many people eating real fermented food these days.

I don't remember anything in the book about insect obsessions. Other obsessions, but not insects. The author wasn't Orthodox (more like traditional), but he was surrounded by Orthodox Jews.

Tue Nov 15, 09:56:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous jdub the ashkenazi jew said...

two comments:

First, regarding the allergen info, in all likelihood, there is no problem with gluten or soy. companies are extremely conservative because their lawyers insist on putting in allergen info if there is the slightest chance of cross-contamination.

Second, we don't eat like Ashkenazi Jews. We eat like American Jews who have Ashkenazi ancestors. We've thrown away the stuff we don't like and eat only the stuff we do like. Our ancestors ate very little meat or chicken (unless they were rich) and when they did, they ate the entire animal (as much as they could from a kashrut perspective). There's a reason the Shulchan Arukh talks about how to cook cow udder and whether it's milchig or fleishig. You don't waste any parts. (Hence, p'tcha, or jellied calves foot soup. NO other explanation).

And they were eating whole foods -- whatever came out of the ground. They had little access to white flour or sugar, which are staples of today's meals. Black bread or rye (viewed as an inferior grain) was the staple, white flour for challah, maybe.

What we call ashkenazi cuisine is the equivalent of looking at Fiddler on the Roof as an accurate representation of how our ancestors lived in Russia.

Wed Nov 16, 07:08:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Leora, that sounds like an interesting book. It's really too bad that my poor old tummy doesn't take kindly to either raw cabbage (used in sauerkraut) or vinegar-- or I'd be happy to eat more fermented foods, if I could.

"I don't remember anything in the book about insect obsessions." My bet is such obsessions didn't exist, at the time.

I hope you remember that we met in Larry and Malka Esther Lennhoff's sukkah in 2010. I hope we'll have another opportunity to get together.

Wed Nov 16, 09:58:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

JDub Ashkenazi, you probably have a point about food producers being afraid *not* to list allergens for fear of being sued. The economy's bad enough--no one wants to incur legal fees.

"we don't eat like Ashkenazi Jews. We eat like American Jews who have Ashkenazi ancestors."

True. I'm not the least bit fond of organ meats, aside from the occasion chopped liver. (I think giblets taste like rubber.) I also love sugar, though I try to save it for weekends and holidays. I am trying to eat more whole foods, though.

"What we call ashkenazi cuisine is the equivalent of looking at Fiddler on the Roof as an accurate representation of how our ancestors lived in Russia."

:) Good description.

Wed Nov 16, 10:07:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Received via e-mail:

"Sephardim would kasher glass (probably by hagalah in your case), but a very dominant Ashkenazi custom is not to kasher a glass kli rishon (a kli rishon is something that goes directly on a heat source and comes in contact with food). I (following Sephardi custom) would not kasher a glass item with multiple parts because it is very easy for grease and food to get trapped in it so you cannot clean it properly. The OU also says that one can only kasher a knife that is made of one piece of metal (ie no plastic or wooden parts) because of this cleaning issue. I noted that someone on your blog gave instructions about glass lids--but your lid also has a metal rim which is hard to clean.

In summary, I would not attempt to kasher it. I like using those oven-proof stickers to mark my keilim (they stick well) so that things don't get confused."

Anon. also mention those wonderful Dairy, Meat, and Parve labels, which I love. Sadly, they wouldn't help in a case such as this, in which the cook simply forgets what category of food s/he is cooking. :(

Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful reply. I think, though, that we'll probably still follow our original plan, as neither of us can imagine any taste transfer. It may help that I'd bought the ravioli for the very specific reason that they had no pepper in them, so there's no "davar charif" issue, at least.

Wed Nov 16, 08:34:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Kosher labels"

Wed Nov 16, 08:41:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Davar Charif. Sorry, can't find a shorter explanation.

Thu Nov 17, 10:25:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Halacha also recognizes the unique pungency of onions and accords them a special status of davar charif, literally ‘a sharp item’. Other common foods with this classification are radishes, garlic, lemons, hot peppers, spicy pickles and very salty foods.3 These items must be treated with extra caution in a kosher kitchen because, as we will see, they present potential kashrus pitfalls.

II. Exception to the Rule

Generally, the result of a kashrus mishap in the kitchen is mitigated when the surface of the offending utensil is clean and the contact was made below the temperature of yad soledos bo (at least 120oF). A Rav can often advise how to correct the situation with minimal losses. However, when a davar charif is involved, the equation changes and the repercussions are more serious. 4

For example, if one uses a fleishig knife to slice an onion, even if the knife was clean from any prior residue or grease5and the onion was cold, the onion will adopt a fleishig status. The reason for this atypical stringency is because the confluence of the sharpness of the onion, together with the concentrated pressure from the knife blade (duchka d’sakinah), imparts the absorbed meat taste from inside the knife into the onion.6"

Thu Nov 17, 10:30:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Last call for recommending a mandoline slicer that can julienne vegetables without slicing fingers in the process(ing). I'm heading over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond after work today with my trusty 20%-off coupon.

Thu Nov 17, 01:55:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

In the end, I chose a Calphalon® Precision Mandoline Slicer because of the safety features. It seems to me that all mandoline slicers are dangerous (and a pain in the neck) to clean, but I think that the safety features make this model safer during use, since one must squeeze the handle to expose the blade(s), and safer to store, since the blades are literally locked away when stored.

Fri Nov 18, 10:59:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

And yes, I'm glad I had that handy-dandy coupon with me. This mandoline slice cost a *lot* more than the julienne peeler. It was worth it, though, to keep me and my husband out of the Emergency Room.

Fri Nov 18, 11:04:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I see from my e-mail that Woodrow/Conservadox has added an interesting comment to my "Bugged" post (linked above as "were our ancestors nearly as obsessed about insects in food"):

Woodrow/Conservadox said...
It seems to me that perhaps "checking for bugs" meant something very different in the 16th century [when the Shulchan Aruch was written] then it does in some Orthodox circles today.

There was no way to check for bugs that were visible only with light boxes and/or the kind of expertise you see on the OU's videotapes.

So my guess is that what happened was-- you washed your lettuce. You looked at it to see if there was any bugs. If you saw a bug, you washed it off or flicked it off. End of bug.

If my conjecture is right, 16th century checking for bugs was not much more stringent than today's today's "not checking"!

Sun Nov 20, 08:06:00 PM 2011

Mon Nov 21, 12:39:00 PM 2011  

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