Strolling around an antique shop in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country, I was reunited with many of the items that inhabited my mother’s kitchen. There was a scrubbing board and a metal oval-shaped tub with which one would scrub and wash clothes and a ringer through which one would dry them. I also saw a charred metal grate that reminded me of the one my mother used to kasher pieces of liver.
Today, of course, we live in a convenience-oriented world. We have a washing machine and a dryer and the meat we buy has already been kashered.
Still, it is important to know how to wash ones clothes manually, (the washing machine has been known to break down) and how to kasher meat and fowl (there are places where this service is not provided by the butcher).
In order to be able to eat meat or fowl that has been properly slaughtered, certain substances, which are strictly forbidden for consumption under Jewish dietary laws, must be removed. These substances include forbidden fat, the sciatic nerve, certain arteries and veins and blood. Porging the meat after shechita removes the forbidden fat, sciatic nerve, arteries and veins. Kashering the meat after shechita removes the forbidden blood.
We know that the consumption of blood is prohibited. After shechita, a certain quantity of blood, known as capillary blood – dam eivarim – is retained in the meat and muscles of the animal. Although this capillary blood is considered part of the meat and therefore permissible when eaten with meat in its raw, uncooked state, once the meat is cooked this capillary blood separates from the meat and becomes prohibited.
If this capillary blood is not extracted from the meat before it is cooked, the water in which the meat is cooked will become suffused with the capillary blood, with the result that both the meat and the utensil in which it was cooked will become treif and will have to be discarded. It has been known to happen that meat thought to have been kashered by the butcher before purchase had not been so kashered, rendering the entire kitchen treif and resulting in painful financial loss.
Kashering the meat is the process by which the meat, prior to cooking, is drained of the capillary blood in order to prepare it for permitted consumption.
Kashering consists of two stages – soaking the meat in water and covering it with salt that draws and drains the blood from the meat. Kashering is required both for the meat of animals and the meat of fowl. Certain organs of the animal, if they are to be eaten (such as the heart, the head, the hooves, the liver, the spleen, the stomach) must be extracted from the carcass of the animal and kashered separately.
First the meat, together with the bones and kosher fat which have been cut out of the meat – but which one intends to cook together with the meat – are thoroughly washed by hand to remove all traces of congealed blood. They are then immersed and submerged for one half hour in tepid water in a bowl or other utensil, reserved specifically for this purpose. Care is taken that the water comes in contact with all areas of the meat, fat and bones. If upon retrieving the meat from the water one cuts it up into yet smaller pieces, the meat has to be soaked again so that the water comes into contact with the newly exposed sides of the meat.
Care should be taken not to allow the meat to soak too long in the water. Meat that has soaked in water for a period of twenty-four hours or longer can no longer be kashered. This is because the protracted action of the water will have closed the pores of the meat, so that the blood can no longer be drawn out.