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Kashering Kitchen? Help!

I am in need of your advice. Passover may seem like a long way away to you, but it seems just around the corner to me!

My partner and I do not keep a kosher house. We have never cooked pork in our home, nor do we prepare meals that mix dairy-and-meat, but we have eaten non-kosher food in our home and we only have 1 set of pots, pans, plates, etc.

That said, she was raised in an observant Kosher home, where her family has three sets of dishes and utensils (D, M, Passover) etc. etc. Last year, due to the way the schedule fell, we did the first seder at our house for our friends and then she went home (her family lives 3-4 hours away; I couldn't go because of a work conflict). It was important to her that our seder was as kosher-for-Passover as possible, so, with the exception of the unkashered plates/utensils/pots/pans/ovens, everything else about the seder was kosher-for-Passover (down to the margarine).

This year her family, including her siblings, her Bubbie, and possibly aunt and uncle, are going to travel to OUR house for the first seder. I am excited that they're coming to our house, but I am pretty stressed about the follow-through! This will be the first major holiday that will be spent at our house, as opposed to their's.

We've been trying to figure out how we can prepare the meal so that her family will consume it (her siblings no longer keep kosher, but her other family members do; in fact, her siblings willingly eat treif, so we're not worried about them); the only way we can come up with is to kasher our kitchen.

We are thinking we will buy a new set of dishes and utensils for the meal (I'm not a fan of having using paper for a Seder). However it is too expensive, and not practical, for us to buy a whole new set of cooking ware (pots, pans, etc). I know our oven can be kashered ourselves - but how might you suggest we handle the rest of it? We were thinking we'd kasher our pots and pans as close to the first Seder as possible and then keep them K-for-P "Meat" until we're done with the holiday (I can't think of a dairy meal I'd need to make that is k-for-p during the time period).

I know to kasher our pots and pans we need to submerge them in the mikvah (am I totally off base here? Sorry - I didn't grow up in a kosher house!). There are several Ortho Mikvahs in our community - but to be honest I don't know how they'd feel about a non-practicing gay woman to show up to kasher her pots? There is a new-agey-reform-type mikveh in a nearby community but I don't think they'd let us kasher anything there either (it's almost like a spa).

Are there rabbis you can pay to help you kasher your house? I know that we need to do this well in advance of the kashering-for-Passover time period because I am sure it's a busy time for rabbis in this line of work! We do not belong to a synagogue; last year for HH we went to 'free' services or she went home (my family lives on the other side of the country).

(we also need to hurry up and put up the mezuzahs before her family visits us, but I am assuming that we can do that ourselves :))

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  1. The mikvah does not "kasher" previously-used pots. There is a ritual cleansing of new pots/pans in a mikveh traditionally performed for items purchased from a non-jewish chain of custody (pretty much everything) but the immersion is not meant to convert recently-used* non-kosher pots to kosher usage.

    Used pots/pans can be kashered if they're metallic (no teflon coating, no enamel finish) through heating. They must be thoroughly cleaned and allowed to sit dry for 24 hours then they can be immersed in a larger (already kashered) pot of boiling water, or if they're too large to immerse, they should be filled with water. When the water starts boiling you need to toss in a well-heated rock which will then cause the water to boil over the rim and outer surface of the pot.

    Things bigger than a pot, like the oven or items like a grill require further steps. They must be cleaned of any foreign material and superheated (a couple of self-cleaning cycles will work for an oven). For a grill and things like cast-iron cooking grates you can use a propane torch. The ritual requirement is to get the food surfaces "white hot" which is a near impossibility short of a smelting furnace, but prolonged exposure to the flame to ensure than no speck of foodstuffs could remain is usually adequate.

    This is not simple stuff. There's a good amount to read up on. It's best to seek out a rabbi who is observant. He/she will advise you in better detail.

    *To add to your confusion, there are opinions out there that "heirloom" pieces of china/cookware which had been unused for more than a year can be used for kosher purposes with no more than the ritual mikvah immersion, but the "unused for more than a year" part isi the key.

    1. Buy a new paring knife, and a package of foil pans (Costco, Sam's Club).

      I tend to cook most of my Passover meals in disposable foil pans. You can make simple dishes like baked chicken, baked potatoes, baked salmon, tzimmes (carrots, sweet potatoes, prunes, brown sugar - make sure it's JUST sugar without additives,) quinoa, turkey breast, meatloaf (matza meal) etc.

      No decent mikvah is going to give you an argument if you come to dip cookware. There might be a charge though.

      You could kasher pots in your oven on self-clean. Makes them look awful but they will be kosher. Clean them PERFECTLY and then don't use them for 24 hrs. Don't do too many pieces at once - not good for the oven.

      1 Reply
      1. re: SoCal Mother

        Definitely try to cook as much as you can in disposable foil pans. They're great for roasting vegetables, fish, chicken cutlets. Also very easy to store and reheat- mashed potatoes, roasted chicken. The pot can be cleaned before the guests have even arrived.

        Like others have said, don't stress yourself out. Do the best you can and definitely call a rabbi or two for some advice.

        If you are very nervous, you can always mention the "fabulous whatever" and suggest that your partner's mom bring that. That way at least the kosher keeping members of the family will not object to everything.

        Lastly... don't go out and buy a whole new set of pots. Check out Macy's one day sales and Marshall's or Home Goods. You may be able to find a pot or skillet or whatever that you can use for the passover meal and then make good use of later on

      2. You are so kind to be doing all of this for your family! An inexpensive way to get around the pot issue is to head to your local Ikea store and buy new, The stuff is nice enough and the prices are good. You can shop online to get an idea of what it may cost and what will work. HTH

        1. Or you could get takeout if you are in a major Jewish city. It will be breathtakingly expensive though. Probably cheaper to buy new pots...

          I saw a really cute video last year with a storyline about a couple doing Pesach for the first time. Silly stuff but actually a very good explanation of how to do it. Remind me after Shabbat to look for it...

          3 Replies
          1. re: SoCal Mother

            I ready to say shame on everyone for not recommending 888-go-kosher. It is run by a Lubavich (not necessairly "Chabad") Rabbi - Rabbi Lubavich and he does EXACTLY what you need, and will give you the guidance you need to get through the holidaym and he goes all over the US

            Now...he does ask for donations, of about $360, but will not charge if needed.

            As per all the above the advice, do not bother with the mikvah.

            Are you guys near a major Jewish community? If you are, please spend the money (if you can) and

            A) ORDER OUT EVERYTHING and then simply reheat in the oven

            B) GET DISPOSABLE EVERYTHING.. I mean everything Serving utensils, paper goods, sedar plates, kiddush cups.

            C) The guidance you really need to get through the whole chag is way too long to post here. Go troll the internet, honestly, Aish and Chabad have pretty reasonable guidelines on what to clean, how to clean it, what can and cannot be kashered. and what needs covering up (like coutertops - depending on their material).

            Finally, and this may seem the most heretical advice:

            Don't make a big dinner. My Rabbi in Pittsburgh always maintained that the Sedar meal should be, in total, Chicken soup, a peice of kugel, a bowl of salad and some fruit.

            Save the big fancy meals for lunch.

            1. re: vallevin

              KISS method: Keep it Simple Sweetheart!

              Don't forget you need to get hagaddahs also, unless everyone brings their own. But it's easier if everyone has the same one. Some supermarkets give away the Maxwell House Coffee hagaddah with a purchase so look around. Matzah usually goes on sale as a loss leader.

            2. What others have written is correct as far as it goes, but what you read about the mikveh was correct too. AFTER utensils have been kashered they must also be dipped in the mikveh. And yes, any Orthodox mikveh in your area will be happy to have you dip your recently-kashered utensils; but don't mention the fact that you intend to treif them up again, because that will obviously upset them. But the fact that you're not yet observant of other mitzvot shouldn't prevent you from keeping kosher, and the fact that you're two women living together shouldn't even be an issue in the first place, since lots of people do that.

              Rabbi Lebovic has a great service, but again he's doing it for the mitzvah, and if he knows you are going to treif your kitchen up again after pesach he won't be very happy. It also doesn't seem right to take advantage of his generosity (if you don't pay full price) and then do that.

              1. You can do this. You really can.

                You do have to decide what standard of kashruth you are trying to achieve, are your partner's parents Conservative? Do they belong to a synagogue that is a member of the Orthodox Union? These organizations publish very clear instructions for kashering a kitchen. But if you start googling around, you will find that when you get to the details sometimes the guidelines from one orthodox group may vary from another on a small but significant point, so you will save yourself a lot of confusion if you know whose standards the people you are going to host deem acceptable.

                The other thing to do is tor plan a realistic menu. Remember that after candlelighting some of the ways you can cook change, and, besides, you'll be sitting at the table having a seder while the food waits for you on the stove. You have to plan a menu without last-minute cooking, things that stay wonderful on a low simmer for however long it takes your partner's family to hold a seder. Some popular seder dishes are potroast (brisket) and chicken soup because they taste wonderful after long simmering.

                After you have figured out which of you pots can be kashered you might also think about recipes like oven roasted vegetables or some chicken dishes that bake or roast in disposable aluminum foil pans in the oven.

                Buying inexpensive dishes and cutlery is a wonderful idea, I know how you feel about paper on a holiday. But if the prieces are higher than you expected do keep in mind some of the more upscale disposables in bamboo or plastics, there are square plastic sets of dishes that look like black china and set a very dramatic table.

                You can certainly put up mezuzahs yourself. You'll have fun picking out attractive cases, available in every price range and to suit every taste. But The little parchments that go inside them can be pricey, prepare for sticker shock there.

                1. just call your local chabad rabbi. ask him for help, more than likely he will.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Moishefrompardes

                    Ditto for me on the local Chabad Rabbi. I believe they Kasher. Just google Chabad and the name of your community or nearest big city. Good luck.

                  2. Ask someone in her family about their requirements and how they hold on things before you call Chabad or anyone else to do the kashering. People have a variety of ways they practice and one person's idea of 'strict' is unacceptably 'liberal'. Her family may not require you to dissolve all your sugar into water or a similar practice that I've only seen in Chabad.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: CloggieGirl

                      When does one dissolve sugar into water when kashering?

                      1. re: queenscook

                        It's got nothing to do with kashering, and no Chabad person coming to kasher the kitchen will try to do any such thing.

                        A common chumra for Pesach is to filter all liquids before Pesach in case there's a crumb in them; along the same lines, sugar is boiled in water to dissolve it and then filtered, so anything that might be hiding in the sugar will be found and got rid of.

                    2. Thank you all for your ideas and support. You've made me believe that we really can do this! As a side note, we're going to services this Friday and we've been invited for Shabbat dinner afterwards (and I RSVP'ed yes before my partner had a chance to think about it).

                      It's funny: I grew up basically without religion and my partner grew up in a Conservadox type household (slightly more MO than Conservative - she finds the idea of a woman rabbi strange and weird and bothersome, for example - but her parents aren't shomer Shabbos; her grandparents spoke Yiddish and lived in Monsey so Conservative stemming from that type of religiosity). But now she has no interest in religious practice (her mother lights Shabbos candles every Friday for example, but she has no interest) except for holidays, really because of tradition/family/food. I on the other hand feel less of an attachment to holidays but am more interested in general religious practice (lighting Shabbos candles, for example).

                      Either way we are going to make it a Seder to remember ;)

                      We're going to hobble stuff together from foil cooking containers/pans (after we kasher the oven ourselves). We have a crockpot that has only ever been used for meat and so we're going to use a Reynold's Slow Cooker Liner (these are certified kosher) and make our brisket in the slow cooker (using the kosher certified liner) - her mom is ok with this. Her mom will bring/make the matzoh ball soup (I make mine from a box, which they find terrifying - lol!) and her bubbie will make/bring gefilte fish. Her aunt will bring some sort of vegetable. We'll also make cauliflower kugel (courtesy of Joan Nathan), the haroset, everything else you need for the Seder plate, etc. And we'll buy some sort of K-for-P pre-made dessert from our local kosher market. We're asking family friends and/or her siblings to bring k-for-p wine.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: emilly

                        best cobbled together k for p dessert- bake a box of passover brownies. layer in a trifle dish with 'whipped cream', berries, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. pretty good for parve passover desserts.

                        1. re: emilly

                          Call me crazy, but I love the Manischewitz coffee cake.


                          You can use oil ( Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Safflower) as a 1:1 substitute, another poster, Queenscook, has made me a true believer of this.

                          You don't even need the special Pesach oil (icky) Hollywood brand safflower is KP year round, as is almost all EVOO)

                          1. re: vallevin

                            Not even the K-for-P margarine? I can't remember the name of the stuff we bought last year, but it was pricy.

                            1. re: emilly

                              Exactly, It's pricey, they only seem to be sold in giant blocks, and it's made from cottonseed oil, you'll never use all of it.... and this is coming from a person who couldn't give a tinker's d*** about organic healthy things.

                              It just that the oils I mentioned above are healthier, and you get a better bang for your buck.

                              1. re: vallevin

                                We switched over to EVOO last year.

                                1. re: DeisCane

                                  Doesn't the EXOO have a unique taste that's not appropriate for everything? That's what makes it so delicious on baasil and tomatoes (a personal favorite), but doesn't it also affect the taste of cakes?
                                  What do you think about the grapeseed oil, which I seem to remember buying last year? It was very pricey, but I'm so grossed out by the usual KP oils, that I was willing to spend the money

                                  1. re: helou

                                    Yes, the EVOO is generally not good for most baking and certainly for frying. I prefer grapeseed for those things but can't always find it.

                                    1. re: helou

                                      They sell a "lighter" olive oil. It's not extra-virgin, and it does need a specific hechsher (as opposed to extra-virgin which is good for Pesach as long as it has a year-round hechsher). It's not lighter in calories, of course, just in the "thickness" and taste. I use it for all my Pesach baking. (I have also used walnut oil, by the way.)

                                      Interestingly, the parve chocolate mousse I make does specifically call for extra-virgin olive oil, which I originally thought was odd, but it works really well. It was originally a New York Times recipe. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/28/din...
                                      in case anyone wants it.

                                      1. re: queenscook

                                        Yes, light olive oil is not easy to find on Pesach. Frankly, we use that for most cooking and I'd love to have it for Pesach.

                                        I know that recipe and was also surprised that it called for EVOO.

                                        1. re: DeisCane

                                          Are you in the NY area? I'm fairly sure I have generally seen it here in Queens, as well as at Brach's in the Five Towns where I have usually done my one big Pesach shopping each year. I think the brand I am picturing in my head is Lieber's, but I can't swear to it.

                                      2. re: helou

                                        Grapeseed and safflower oils are both good. The Hollywood brand of safflower oil mentioned above is the most widely available K-for-P brand; it's sold in the regular oils section, not with the Pesach stuff. It's more expensive than regular corn/canola/soybean oils, but cheaper than grapeseed.

                                        1. re: GilaB

                                          I am not really a fan of the safflower oil but it's been our go-to for awhile.

                                          Queens--I'm in Essex Cty, NJ, and I've only seen it a few times. Hopefully this year!

                                          1. re: GilaB

                                            Costco is selling Grapeseed Oil with a Star K Hashgacha. Does it need a separate Passover Hashgacha?

                                            1. re: helou

                                              I am pretty sure, but you can VERY easily call the star-k 410-484-4110, and just ask your question to whomever answers.

                                              1. re: vallevin

                                                Thanks. I called, and they told me it does not require the P and can be used for Pesach.