Kosher Milk? Don’t Bet on It.
One of my goals with this blog is to share my enthusiasm and knowledge about kosher food and perhaps nudge people to think a little more deeply about where their food comes from.
For example, did you know milk isn’t automatically kosher? It’s more than just knowing it came from a cow or goat; a mashgeach has to certify that the milk supply hasn’t been mixed with milk from animals that have had any kind of surgery, which renders them un-kosher.
Here at Mitzuyhan Kosher Catering, a mashgeach supervises our main kitchen and mobile kitchens. A mashgeach also travels to all our catering events to supervise food preparation and serving.
Growing Markets for Kosher Milk
I recently read an article about a milk farmer in upstate New York who’s become quite the milk maven since teaming up with mashgeach from downstate (New York City). The farm’s kosher milk sales reached a cool $4.6 million last year, compared to just $450,000 for the regular stuff, reports the Albany Times-Union. “While other dairy farms struggle with an inconsistent market,” the paper says, this dairy farm has eager buyers all over the U.S. from Brooklyn to Florida and California, which leads the U.S. in milk production.
“It blows my mind,” the farmer, Phil Herrington of Brunswick, New York, says. In addition to serving new markets, his farm also gets frequent Hasidic visitors from downstate who are curious about where their milk comes from.
In a nutshell, milk is kosher as long as it comes from an animal that’s permissible to eat (those with cloven hooves and that chew cud). It also can’t have been operated upon, so milk from cows or goats that have had c-sections can’t be kosher. Herrington also starts giving his cows hametz-free feed a few weeks before Passover.
Is it difficult to make the switch from a non-kosher to a kosher supplier? Well, Herrington has to house a rabbi to live on the farm because he runs a 24-hour operation and doesn’t want to delay shipments during inclement weather. (Another rabbi supervises when the onsite rabbi is off-duty.) It’s been quite an experience for him. “You have to accept the fact that someone is looking over your shoulder and asking questions,” he commented.
Bottling for kosher dairies is handled by another business, also operating under rabbinical supervision.
Milky Issues Around Waiting Times
Kosher laws prohibit serving and eating dairy and meats together. So when can you have ice cream or a dairy-based dessert after a meal with meat?
It depends on the tradition within your community. When we cater an event, we do not cook meat and dairy foods together or serve them at the same time. But when can one have ice cream or a buttery chocolate cake after a meal?
Many communities have their own rules. Sephardic and Orthodox Jews generally wait six hours between meat and dairy portions. Conservative Ashkenazic communities may wait for three hours, common among Jews of German descent, according to MyJewishLearning.com. Others say it’s appropriate to signal the end of the meat portion of a meal by saying a prayer, rinsing the mouth, and washing the hands. The time between dairy to meat consumption can be quite brief; COR says to wash your hands, cleanse your mouth by eating something dry, and rinse your mouth. But if you have consumed a strong-tasting, hard cheese that leaves a lingering taste, a six-hour wait may be appropriate.
Or, we can prepare desserts with non-dairy “milk” like soy milk, almond milk, rice milk—as long as they are certified kosher.
We work closely with our customers to work out waiting times between dairy and meat dishes. There’s always a lot going on at Jewish weddings and Bat/Bar Mitzvahs and anyway, it really is healthier to wait before you eat dessert!