With all these recent (ok two…) dairy recipes we have been trying, I got to thinking about Kosher cheeses. Kosher Hubby and I don’t use cholov yisroel cheese (if that is Greek to you, that’s ok, I’ll explain below) but we try to steer clear of animal rennet. So let’s talk cheese.
What makes cheese Kosher?
Ok. So first and foremost… if the animal that makes the cheese is Kosh… then so is it’s milk. However, there are two types of cheeses… soft and hard. Soft cheese (cream cheese, cottage cheese, even brie) are what they call “acid-set.” They add bacterial cultures to milk and it forms soft curds (with liquid whey). These are usually Kosher, most folks will still look for a hechsher because of the production equipment. It is the hard cheeses that pose some issues.
Hard cheeses are rennet-set. This means they add rennet enzymes to milk then firm cheese curds form with liquid whey. There are so many shades to this conversation but let us say this… rennet comes from the stomach of animals, most often from cows. Additionally, there are some artificial rennets out there.
Just to add another dimension, some folks ban cheeses that are not made by Jews/Jewish companies. It comes from issues around understanding if the rennet came from a Kosher cow (aka when slaughtered, was it un-diseased). It is literally called gevinat akum (non-Jewish cheese).
What is Cholov Yisroel?
Cholov Yisroel is an extra stringency involving milk and milk products. In this case, every thing from start to finish (milking to packaging) was supervised by an observant Jew. This is to ensure that there are no unseen problems and make sure that your dairy products are of the highest kashrut standards. There was, at one time, fears that a farmer might mix in some milk from a non-kosher animal (horses, pigs) to the cow or goat milk. There are many groups that observe this stringency, including Chabad.
Where can I find yummy Kosher cheese?
Good question! Well, one way is to make it! Perhaps Kosher Hubby and I will make mozzarella one day for the blog. He has done it in the past and said it’s delish! But for ease of use, you can buy a lot of good cheese out there. A favorite in the Kosher, She Eats home is Tillamook Kosher Cheddar. We call this “egg cheese” in our house because we love it on eggs in the morning! It’s no longer easy to find true Italian Parmigiano that is Kosher any more. Here’s an article on the death of this delicious cheese. As mentioned in the article Parmigiano has a nice cousin, Grana Padano. You can find it in stores or here though it is not easy to come by and expensive. The Cheese Guy is awesome. He has TONS of varieties. I haven’t tried his brand personally but as far as cheeses I enjoy… check out the Parmesan and Pecorino. He’s got a great selection. Here is another site with a decent selection of cheeses. Zabar’s has some kosher cheeses too. And one last site with kosher cheese options.
Here is a really good article about how cheese is made and about the Kashrut of cheese: Say Cheese! I really recommend reading it! Great details on most of what I addressed here!