Friday, September 18, 2009
So, is honey kosher?
A couple of days ago I took Let it Bee™ honey to a CSA/Food Co-op (Community Sustainable Agriculture) in White Plains. When the organizer asked me to bring honey to the CSA, she didn't mention that it took place in a Temple, not that it matters, but it did raise the question: Is honey kosher?
So there I was was with our honey, between Adamah (“Young Jewish Farmers Changing the World One Pickle at a Time”) and Kosher Cheese and Kosher Wine. And it was only when I suggested to the cheese vendor that I trade her a jar of honey for a chunk of cheese (frankly – a good deal for her since the honey goes for almost double the price of the cheese, but was I hungry and could only lick honey off my fingers for so long) and she asked if the honey was kosher, that I realized I had no idea. She told me that to be kosher the honey would have to have a rabbinical seal of approval, stating that there have been no cows or pigs touching the honey extractor. A highly unlikely occurrence, I told her. But my assurances were not enough. No cheese for me. Later I asked the CSA organizer if honey was kosher, and she told me that according to a rabbi she asked, honey was exempt from the usual kosher requirements, because it was made entirely by the bees.
I just checked on the web (this is much too easy) and several sites tell me that even though bees themselves are not kosher, honey, according to Maimonides, is kosher because it is not a ‘product’ of their bodies, but only stored in their bodies. The nectar they bring into the hive is mixed with their enzymes & saliva, but because this does not take place in their stomachs, the honey can be kosher.
Now it may be that comb honey is kosher, being that it's only wax and honey, without the step of human intervention, and extracted honey is not. Unless it is.