Monday, November 26, 2007

Why I Buy Kosher Turkeys (and Chickens)

Until a a couple of years ago I didn't know much about Kosher meats. Only that if you were Jewish and you wanted to consume meat within the dietary laws of Judaism, you purchased Kosher meat. And I thought a rabbi had been involved somehow in the butchering process, maybe that he said a prayer over it? I didn't know. We have Jewish friends who have meat shipped from somewhere in the Midwest because they believe it's much better meat than they can buy at their local deli that offers Kosher meat and foods. They don't keep a Kosher home - they even eat pork, but they really like the Kosher meat they buy.

Then, I went to a cooking class in which Tarla Fallgatter, the teacher, mentioned that the Kosher chicken at Trader Joe's was just really good. Because I'm always on the lookout for better chicken, I tried a whole chicken - Kosher - from Trader Joe's. OMGoodness. It was fantastic. It was better than any chicken I'd ever purchased before.

But still, that was the extent of what I knew about Kosher meats. Then I read an article in one of the food magazines about Kosher. About what they do to the meat. How it's butchered, and exactly what's involved in the process. It was a very interesting read, actually. And no, the rabbi doesn't pray over the meat. But had I not already tried Kosher chicken I probably wouldn't have even read the article. Since I'm not Jewish, I would have just gone right on by, not to give it another thought.

What makes Kosher chicken or turkey better is that it's already been brined or salted. The butchering process by rabinic law requires the animal to be slaughtered by a deep stroke across the neck and quickly draining the animal of its blood.
  • Jews do not eat blood because the life of the animal (literally, the soul of the animal) is contained in the blood. This applies only to the blood of birds and mammals, not to fish blood. Thus, it is necessary to remove all blood from the flesh of kosher animals.

Even after slaughtering, the animal still has some blood contained within, so they must perform a second process:

  • The remaining blood must be removed, either by broiling or soaking and salting. Liver may only be kashered by the broiling method, because it has so much blood in it and such complex blood vessels.

Since I'm a huge convert to the brining of lots of different meats, but particularly chicken and turkeys, I am relieved of having to DO the brining. The Kosher process does it for me. And since I've not perfected the ratio of water, sugar and salt so that a turkey doesn't come out too salty, I'm happy to let the Kosher butcher do all the work for me.

I will say, buying Kosher is more expensive. This year I went to Trader Joe's, who usually has them at Thanksgiving and Christmas, to buy my turkeys on Monday, the 19th. They were already sold out. I was absolutely devastated. I stood there in the middle of the store, with lots of people trying to get by me, and nearly cried. I talked to any clerk I could find. Nope, no Kosher turkeys. I went to the customer service desk. And very nearly cried. They shrugged. They told me all of the TJ's stores in Orange County were sold out by 10 am that morning.

The last 2 years I've relied on TJ's Kosher turkeys. They're certainly not carried at any of my local grocery stores. Thank goodness for Whole Foods. Yes, they had Kosher turkeys, but each 14 pound bird was about $75.00. A whole lot more money than TJ's. But, these two were the most moist turkeys we'd ever eaten. And the brining was absolutely perfect - I could use the juice in the bottom of the pan - it wasn't too salty at all. Some of our guests were blown away by how juicy the breast meat was. I may have converted several people to buying Kosher next year.

So, your challenge is to find a Kosher market (or a TJ's) and try a Kosher chicken or turkey. you'll be amazed, I do believe! As a little aside, I notice that all of the Kosher chickens and turkeys I've purchased have still had some feathers attached. And the only organ meat included is the liver - no heart of gizard. That's part of the Kosher law. So, there's your little lesson today in Kosher!

Note: my Kosher info and facts for this posting came from Judaism 101.


Kalyn said...

Very interesting, I had no idea about this!

Anonymous said...

i swear by kosher poultry now... i'm not jewish either but live in a super hasidic neighborhood and do most of my shopping at the jewish supermarket...they have the best dip aisle too all the roasted eggplants, cucumber and beat salads