Eating kosher in a non-supervised bakery in Sweden

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Eating kosher in a non-supervised bakery

When deciding Hallachik concerns regarding the food business, we see that our sages used to assess the urgency for the community for a certain item, in order to reach the balance between strictness and leniency required, so they will result with the most accurate Hallacha making.

An example of that is bread, the most basic food. Non like most foods, that in order for them to become kosher, require Jewish involvement in the process of its making, the Rabbis allowed breads that are made even by pagans, as long as the ingredients are kosher.

In this article, we will try to give guidelines for eating kosher in a non-supervised bakery. Following our sages’ logic and with accordance with the Swedish reality, which is considered ‘Sha’at Dechak Gedola’, normal kosher resources are limited. In other words, this is a “lower-standard” kosher than the ones of kosher certified items. We are almost “forced” to live with it because of the low supply we currently have in Sweden. One is encouraged to keep higher standards than the ones written below. While we write the below leniencies, we wish that reality will change and more high standard kosher items will be available and this article irrelevant.

What are the main concerns when visiting a non-supervised bakery and, how to shop there in a kosher manner?

Only baking, without cooking

The below leniencies can be applied only to a place making breads and pastries. If the store provides cooking service on site, there are many more issues that this brief article does not confronts nor deals with.

Bottom line, if you go to a bakery that makes cooked food, look for a sol purpose bakery. (only cold sandwiches might not compromise the kashrut of the goods baked on site, as long as separated and not cooked onsite).

Jewish owned bakery

Baked goods made by a Jewish person or a bakery owned by a Jewish person, requires Hafrashat Challa. That is tithes handling.
If you are afraid that it is not being done, a lenient ruling will still allow to eat there, if you do Hafrashat Challah yourself.

Bottom line: take a piece of the bread or pastries you ordered, double wrap inside a bag, say ‘this is for tithes’, and in a respectful way put it in the trash can. That is the minimal way.

Cheese

Hard cheese is likely to be traif – not kosher. Therefore, one must avoid any product with hard cheese.

Ask nicely, “are you making any products with yellow cheese or any other hard cheese? If yes, do you bake it at the same time and in the same oven of the other items?

If the pastries are not baked in the same oven and at the same time, there is room for leniency, and you can eat there.

“Vegetarian

Many of the Hallachick concerns are regarding ‘animal products’, such as oils, fats etc. (see next entry “Oils, margarine and shortenings”). Fortunately, many bakeries can be categories “vegetarian”. Although what they sometimes define as vegetarian doesn’t necessary means the complete absence of animal products, it is a good start and, a basic requirement for eating kosher in such a bakery.

Bottom line, ask if the place is vegetarian, if not – leave. If yes – few more inquires may allow you to eat kosher in that location.  You’re on the right path.

Oils, margarine and shortenings:

Most pastries need a certain amount of fat in them. If the source of the fat is derived from animals, the food is not kosher.
fortunately, the food industry in Sweden (as I believe it is in most advanced European countries) moved to vegetable oils, which by essence are kosher. Although this is considered lenient ruling, since many factories produce both animals and vegetables oils in the same place, as well as they might be shipped in the same tanks while being heated (a procedure that might contaminate the equipment). It will still be fair to say, and of course Hallachikally right, that probability is much higher that we get pure vegetable oil, and even in the far case of animal remnants, they will be annulled (bitul) by the much higher amount of kosher product, in which that non-kosher taste can never be detected nor compromise the Kashrut of the oil.

Bottom line, when you go to the bakery, ask if they are using only vegetable oil. By the way, they are used to answering such questions, since many people are vegetarian and ask that for variety of different reason. Local produced products are better in that case.

Release agents

Although the ‘release agents’, used in order to prevent the sticking of the food to the equipment might be animal based or might contain emulsifier that contains animal derived product, one can count on the fact that it is not giving enough traif flavour to compromise the kosher status of the bread.

Bottom line, if you cannot find a bakery that doesn’t use pan release that is purely made of vegetables, you can still enjoy a good kosher loaf of bread.

Gelatine

Gelatine can be found everywhere. In bakeries you will find them mainly in the icings and desserts, but not only. This protein has great gelling qualities and that its purely kosher version is hard to find especially since its production is much more complicated and thus scientifically more expensive.

Most if not all gelatine used here, are derived from non-kosher sources, usually pigs skin, what makes it traif, non-kosher for most authorities. Nonetheless, in cases where there is no better alternative, one can count on the fact that in the process of making the gelatine, the bones, skins and tendons are losing their original form completely and become inedible for a period of time (panim chadashot). To some authorities who approve that, probably all gelatines are not considered traif.

In bakeries it is more commonly found in “wet cakes” with creams and such, as well as in cheese cakes.

Bottom line, if there is no alternative of a gelatine-less item, and in the country (Sweden) the kosher gelatine does not exist, one can enjoy the dessert, vitamin, cream cheese.. and endless products that involves gelatine. That is considered a very lenient ruling, and vastly non-accepted by most kosher authorities.

Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers are one of the main reasons that restaurants that call themselves “vegetarian”, in truth use also animal derived items.

Emulsifiers are the chemical that allows certain liquids, that otherwise separate, to be mixed together. Without the emulsification, many of the products we consume will not be stable. Their shape and oneness form depends on the emulsifier.

The problem is that traditionally; many emulsifiers are also from animals’ fat. Furthermore, the European law allows to label “100% pure vegetable shortening”, even though it is being stabilized with animal derived emulsifiers.

However, although obviously not kosher, one can count on the fact that the small amount being used is annulled (bitul), and does not traif the whole product, since it is not considered Halachically significant.

Bottom line, although kosher certified foods must not contain non-kosher emulsifiers, in places without kosher certified variety one can avoid checking the existence of non-kosher emulsifiers.

Yashan flour

The Torah has a rule that flour made of wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt of each year, can be eaten only after the second day of Pesach. In other words, every year we can eat only from the harvest that was planted and took root before 16th of Nissan (March-mid April), Yashan. All such grains that were planted after the second day of Pesach will be kosher to use only after next Pesach, Chadash.

Unfortunately, it is a severe Biblically ordained law, and the reality in North Europe, is that a lot of the produce considered Chadash and thus, traif by the regular ruling of Hallacha. Yet, since it is a such a basic need and we will almost not be able to survive without flour, most Diaspora Jewry counts on a ruling that the laws of Yashan-Chadash applies only in the Holy land, Israel.

Bottom line, if you’re not used to high standards of Kashrut, you do not need to check the source of the wheat used in the bakery. This leniency is vastly accepted even by prominent kosher agencies and can be used freely.

 

Practical bottom line

If you live in Sweden nowadays, do not want to keep high standard of kosher, but still, want to avoid traif, this is what you should do (tutorial for visiting a bakery):

 

You: Are you completely vegetarian here? I mean, even the oil, is it vegetarian or is coming from Brazil?

Baker: yes, of course.

You: do you also cook here hot meals, or just baked pastries?

Baker: no, we only bake here.

You: Thank you. Sorry for the bother I just happen to have some restrictions regarding my food, called kosher – which items do not contain any yellow or hard cheese?  I need to avoid having also the buns with cheese on top.

Baker: Oh, I see, you’re Jewish and read the Kosher committee’s article… its ok, me too.   Here take whatever you want without the cheese, it’s not baked in the same oven at the same time, just don’t forget to tear a piece for Hafrashat Challa. J

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