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Feb 10, 2012 02:09 PM

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.