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Are the molecular gastronomy additives kosher?

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Hi Omri. Could you clarify what specific additives you are referring to? There are a great many additives. –  hobodave Mar 11 '11 at 5:04
    
@Aaronut Isn't this off-topic as in "General health and diet issue" –  TFD Mar 11 '11 at 10:59
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@TFD: No. Kosher food is a well defined category of food. Food is either kosher, or it isn't. This is a perfectly valid question to ask, albeit it could be worded better. If you feel this warrants a more thorough discussion please start a meta topic. –  hobodave Mar 11 '11 at 11:22
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@TFD: As hobodave says, the kashrut laws are well within the problem domain of any cook required to prepare kosher food. It's analogous (and actually very similar in content) to a question about whether or not an ingredient is OK for vegetarian or vegan cooking. It's a subject area of food preparation, not dietetics. –  Aaronut Mar 11 '11 at 16:37
    
Ask you local Rabbi! (just kidding, as @hobodave asked, what additives?) –  BaffledCook Aug 6 '11 at 14:49
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1 Answer 1

Most gelling agents are derived from flora of some kind - usually plants or algae. Since they aren't derived from any animal, they are kosher and also vegan.

The primary exception is gelatin, which is derived from animal bones. Gelatin is as kosher as the animal it came from and the conditions under which it was prepared; genuine kosher gelatin does exist (usually produced from fish bones) but it is somewhat difficult to find in most areas. If you see it, you'll know, because it will be labeled as kosher. Beware of "KoJel" and other kosher gelatin "substitutes", as they are usually some other additive or combination of additives, such as agar and/or carrageenan.

Here's a quick (incomplete) list of where some of the additives come from:

  • Agar - algae
  • Alginate - algae
  • Carrageenan - seaweed
  • Gelatin - animal bones (not kosher unless specifically indicated)
  • Gellan - bacteria
  • Guar gum - beans
  • Lecithin - beans (soy)
  • Methylcellulose - various plants
  • Pectin - fruit and other plants
  • Xanthan gum - bacteria

As you can see, there's nothing in there to make it unkosher.

Of course in practice it depends how strict you are. Some of these things may be prepared in facilities where they may come into contact with unkosher foods - so if you're orthodox, you might have to seek out products that have the K stamp. Good luck finding them.

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In Israel, gelatin is used regularly. It can be kosher if it's made from kosher animals. Aside form that, I've definitely eaten kosher foods that had Xanthan, Agar, Guar, Lecithin and Pectin in them. –  Carmi Mar 11 '11 at 11:00
    
Would gelatin made from kosher animals be fleishig (meaty)? I'd assume so, but is it? –  chama Mar 11 '11 at 14:55
    
@Carmi: Hence my qualifier "...unless it specifically says that it is." I don't think you can find genuine kosher gelatin outside Israel and maybe New York City; most "Ko-Jel" is actually something else entirely. –  Aaronut Mar 11 '11 at 16:38
    
@Chama -- it depends on who you ask, whether gelatin from cow bones in pareve (neither dairy nor meat). Here's an overview from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis on the topic: oukosher.org/index.php/common/article/5467 –  Martha F. Mar 11 '11 at 17:42
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You also might want to mention transglutaminase; some forms are derived from animal blood, which would of course be treif. –  ESultanik Aug 6 '11 at 17:06
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