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I see a lot of restaurants and grocery stores advertising kosher food. What qualifies a kosher dish?

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2 Answers 2

There are quite a few rules involved. Short version:

  • Animals must be slaughtered in a specific way, blood drained, and a rabbi must supervise
  • Dairy and meat (fish does not count as meat, generally) may not be served in the same dish. Depending on the level of observance, separate sets of dishes, cutlery, sinks, fridges, etc are maintained for dairy and for meat. Less Orthodox Jews will serve meats and dairy in the same meal, but not in the same preparation.
  • No shellfish; fish must have both fins and scales to be kosher
  • No pork
  • Only cloven-hoofed animals which also chew cud
  • A rabbi must supervise food preparation when prepared by non-Jews

That's the basics. The Wikipedia articles on kosher food and kashruth will explain further. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews may or may not follow some or all of the practices.

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Is dolphin kosher? –  Brendan Long Oct 9 '10 at 0:49
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@Brendan: No. Dolphins, if considered fish, as they would have at the time - have no scales. If considered as a mammal, they neither chew cud nor have cloven hooves. –  hobodave Oct 9 '10 at 1:51
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Bingo. Same goes for whale, shark, all encephalopods, crustaceans, and molluscs, otters, polar bears... –  daniel Oct 9 '10 at 1:57
    
OTHO, dolphinfish are kosher (source: CRC). –  J. C. Salomon Aug 7 '13 at 19:57

For meat, the answer is basically that the animal must have cloven hooves, and chew the cud. It must also be properly slaughtered, and the meat salted to remove the blood. There are all sorts of interesting edge cases to this, like giraffes, which are theoretically kosher animals, but no-one knows the way to slaughter them correctly. Also, fish (which must have scales and fins, I think) is not meat for this purpose, but poultry is.

You can't cook meat products and dairy products in the same set of pans, or serve them in the same dishes. There are all sorts of knock-on effects to this. For instance, some traditional cheeses are made with rennet, exracted from the stomach of a calf, which means that they've mixed "meat" and "milk" and are therefore unkosher.

Any leafy vegetable must be inspected to make sure there are no insects in it. grains and legumes need to be sorted to make sure that nothing inedible is accidentally included.

Any fruit or vegetable is unkosher if it was grown on Jewish land during the seventh year, when the land must rest. This rule doesn't apply for non-Jewish land.

A tenth of any food grown must be given to charity or left to rot. This is usually done by the growers, and if they're not Jewish then it doesn't usually matter.

That's all I can remember from my time in the Israeli Navy.

There's a lot of other details which are too numerous for this medium. There are also a lot of things to do with passover specifically, which you should probably ask about in a separate question.

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To be specific about meat, the cloven hooves and cud-chewing is for mammals. For birds, there's actually a list in the bible (oukosher.org/index.php/articles/single_print/10264). It comes down to the fact that kosher birds generally aren't birds of prey or scavengers. For animals that swim, they must have fins and scales. (There are some marginal cases here, like swordfish, which have scales as young animals, but lose them as they get older.) –  Martha F. Oct 9 '10 at 22:13
    
You have your Shmita and Maaser rules somewhat confused. –  Double AA Aug 19 at 13:54

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