So what makes a cheese kosher?
As the question was posed to me this morning in the office, I truly did not know where to begin but obviously you begin at the beginning by doing some research. My research presented me with a series biblical terms, Jewish dietary restrictions and intricate ancient rules. But for our purposes here, I chose to explain this to you all in plain English without getting too involved in kashrut (the body of Jewish law that designates what foods can and cannot be eaten, when, and what foods have to separated due to a set of biblical dietary restrictions.)
So, a cheese is considered kosher if the milk utilized to make the cheese comes from a kosher animal and obviously is produced under rabbinical supervision. Ok seems somewhat simple right? It unfortunately isn't nearly as simple as it sounds, designating a cheese as kosher is actually one of the hardest products to determine. Why you might ask? Well that's because of the fact that cheese is made utilizing rennet -- the cheese's starter product which causes the formation of cheese curds. Rennet can be either animal or vegetable based, both have chymosin, the necessary enzyme for cheese production. Vegetable rennet comes from a type of mold known as mucur miehei but there is no mold in the final vegetable rennet product. On the other hand animal rennet is an enzyme from the stomach of calves, lambs or goats prior to the animal consuming anything but milk. Here in lies the problem with kosher cheeses -- you need to ensure that not only the milk utilized to craft the cheese is from a kosher animal but also that the rennet is. Otherwise, you utilize vegetable rennet for kosher cheeses.
Interesting to think about the process that goes into crafting a specifically kosher cheese versus a non-kosher cheese and yes if you were curious, I do believe that they tend to have different flavor profiles, but that my friends is for another time.
On that note, Fromagical would like to wish you a Happy Passover, Good Friday, and Easter weekend. Stay tuned for Fromagical's Easter cheese recommendations tomorrow as well. But for the moment, I'd leave you all with a nice quote on honor of the Passover holiday : "Passover has a message for the conscience and the heart of all mankind. For what does it commemorate? It commemorates the deliverance of a people from degrading slavery, from most foul and cruel tyranny. And so, it is Israel's - nay, God's protest again unrighteousness, whether individual or national." - Morris Joseph