Leftovers and the Kosher Kitchen

[Glossary below.]

My mother z”l hardly ever threw out food. I think she managed this by serving five meat meals during the week. On the three “fleishig” weekdays, she transferred meaty leftovers from one main meal to the next. Whatever leftovers couldn’t go in a main course were recycled in the soup.

With mostly milchig meals, she would have had two sets of leftovers to juggle. I remember that she had a of milchig, cooked rice in the refrigerator at all times because (a) she used it for rice and milk, a comfort food she heated up with a little sugar whenever we got sick, and (b) it was one of the few things I ever saw her throw away.

Frequent meat meals don’t always mean eating large quantities of meat. One friend uses up her Shabbat leftovers gradually, adding more rice and vegetables to the pan each day until the end of the week, when hardly any meat is left. Beans and legumes are a good way to up the nutritional value of meals low in animal protein.

My mother z”l owned few pareve utensils. My mother had two full sets of eating utensils, but a limited number of dairy casseroles and pots. It seems to me that the traditional Jewish kitchen is mostly fleishig, with pareve items cooked in fleishig pots.

At the other extreme I have been to homes with a large selection of pareve pots and serving utensils. I say extreme because by the time I serve the food I already know whether the meal will be milchig or fleishig, and I can match the utensils to whatever dishes and flatware I’m using. It seems that an excess of pareve utensils, like two sinks, is one more example of affluence leading to more stringencies.

Rabbi Dr. Haym Soleveitchik, son of the Rav, once described how his mother went out of town for a few days. While she was away, the family observed kashrut according to the Shulchan Aruch, the standardized code of Jewish law. This included eating cold foods with whatever utensil was available regardless of “gender.” When she returned the rebbetzin accused them of traifing up her kitchen (i.e. making it not kosher). Most Jewish homemakers are more stringent than necessary regarding meat and dairy utensils, but of course this prevents mixups.

My pareve utensils include my food processor; a large pressure cooker, another pot, baking equipment, and a few small things. I use the pressure cooker to make large batches of beans and rice to use in both meat and dairy recipes. Occasionally I’ll use a pareve utensil or the food processor for mixing a cold, milchig food.

For those of you who keep kosher, how do you handle leftovers of meat and dairy?

Definitions: Fleishig: Meaty Milchig: Dairy Pareve: Neutral. Fleishig and milchig foods are never cooked together, with separate pots and eating utensils are required for each. There is leniency regarding cold foods. z”l: zichrona livracha, may her memory be for a blessing. Rebbetzin: Rabbi’s wife.

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  1. I cook most food in pareve pots. I don’t cook much dairy, anyway. So the leftovers can be served at any meal.

    The Rav’s wife would have been shocked by my friend’s family that follows Sephardi or more specifically Persian Jewish tradition. They don’t believe in pareve. (I’m not completely sure how that works…but she did say she can serve anything cooked in any pot at another meal, if it’s not meat or dairy).

  2. yes, we sepharadim always scare askanazim in the kitchen! lol!
    we can cook rice in a dairy pot and eat it with meat and vice versa.

  3. RaggedyMom says

    I try to approximate our schedule to match my school-aged children’s meat/dairy days. Both schools serve/allow meat lunches on Tuesday and Thursday. So for those days, everyone else eats meat for lunch, and dairy for supper.

    If I have Shabbat leftovers that didn’t get eaten for Sunday or Monday night supper, those go to work with my husband in a container for lunch.

    The other days, we do the opposite. It helps that when my husband became religious as a teenager, most people around him waited three hours between meat and dairy, so that is our minhag now as well.

    I try hard to rarely throw away food. A little bit of fried onion always helps make certain leftovers more palatable. If I see that a large amount of a particular Shabbat food went uneaten, I usually wrap and freeze most of the remainder to pull out on a short, hectic erev Shabbat on another week, and make a mental note to adjust quantities for next time.

    • mominisrael says

      Leora and Tikva–the sephardim are lenient about meat/milk and Pesach, but more stringent on some things.
      RM, how did you meet your husband?

  4. I’ve never heard of the whole “cold food” rule…….so this means it would be okay for my kids to eat their cereal with a meat spoon??? Or if I took cold chicken from the fridge I could eat it (without heating), with a milk fork??? This seems bizarre to me……….either it’s milk or it’s meat at that point, no matter how hot or cold it is, no???

  5. mominisrael says

    Hi EmahS! Strictly speaking, if you never heated food in your house–say you only ate cold cereal and cold takeout– you would only need one set of dishes. A utensil can only become meat or dairy through heating. So the milk in the cereal doesn’t transfer to a clean meat spoon, and the “meatiness” of the spoon won’t transfer back to the milk.

  6. I do what Raggedy does. I’ll saute onions, red pepper, mushrooms and slice up leftover chicken and mix it in. My kids actually love this dish.

    This week there was some leftover roast beef (which we rarely have). It was quite expensive and I knew noone would eat it again. So I sliced it up and added it to sauteed onions and some pasta. The kids loved it.

    • mominisrael says

      Baila, I can’t imagine no one wanting leftover roast beef, but your recipe sounds great too.

  7. We have a lot of pareve pots and utensils and storage containers. (It’s sometimes a challenge keeping the ladles and things pareve; my husband says they’re “temporarily pareve.” But we don’t serve a lot of meat, and we don’t serve any dairy casseroles. Our weekday meals are mostly pareve, like pasta, or fish, or cornbread, or pareve soup.

    I have dairy pizza pans and I make homemade pizza every Wednesday.

    Re leftovers, I try to use up my Shabbos leftovers on Sunday night; longer than that, and they have limited appeal. Our weeknight leftover pasta, pizza, or soup finds its way into lunch bags and always gets used up quickly.

  8. My MIL has a kitchen like you describe your mom’s. Growing up my husband only ate dairy (or fish) meals one night a week. I fail to understand how this was healthy or affordable (it was not pasta cooked in a meat pot; we’re talking freshly made chicken or meatballs or steak), but his oma is 97 years old so I guess I can’t knock it entirely.

    I have a lot of pareve pots and utensils. It kills me to make something one gender or another. I have a meat soup pot and saute pan (and grill pan) and dairy pasta/soup pot, frying pan, griddle, and small pot that I can hypothetically use for melting butter but mostly use to boil eggs or make small quantities of vegetables or pasta (for the kids). Pareve pots: 8 qt, 4 qt, 3 qt, 2 qt, and a pareve grill pan. Most of my knives are pareve as well.

    Once the shabbat meat leftovers are gone we rarely have meat again until the next shabbat, so I almost make pareve soup and side dishes so they can stand alone. I am BT and chose to wait a full 6 hrs (B”H married a yekke) and spent years being very choosy about when to eat meat.

    Once I learned the halachot inside I could see more room for flexibility, but I think it makes me personally less crazy to keep a lot pareve.

    • mominisrael says

      Kate, my mother cooked fresh meat about once a week and something with leftovers the rest of the time, like Spanish rice with chicken, vegetables, and an egg to thicken it.

  9. Come to think of it, I could use a larger dairy pot (the ones I have are very small), and a smaller pareve pot (I have several large ones). Thanks a lot, now I feel like I have to go shopping. But I can’t…I have no place to store any more.

  10. mominisrael says

    Tesyaa–no, no, no, that wasn’t the idea!

  11. At this point, I seem to make just what gets eaten. We have a lineup of meals from leftovers to pasta. If we do have leftovers, I’m home, so I tend to finish up the one cup of soup that never got eaten.

  12. I cook everything parev in parev pots, so I can often recycle potatoes or veg between meat and dairy meals. There’s only me and my husband at home, which makes it easy to estimate how much meat we’ll need and generally we finish all the meat/cheese I serve – if he’s still hungry, there’s always bread or potatoes.

    • mominisrael says

      ON, OP, and I-D, you sem to have good systems. Orthoprax, thanks for visiting and commenting!

  13. I only have two sets of pots: dairy and meat. However if I eat meat, I’ll cook the vegetables in another meat pot, not in a dairy one. Come to think about it, the rice cooker (used at least twice a week) is parve.

  14. re cold, there are some exceptions, e.g things that are sharp, e.g onions, and yellow cheese too.
    e.g if you had a meat knife and cut onions with it, you could not use the onions with milk (or something like that).

  15. it’s interesting to me that no one else who has commented so far has “solved” the problem by becoming vegetarian. that’s what we do – all of our meals are dairy because we don’t have meat in our house. we don’t bring it in, we only have one set of dishes!:-)

    • mominisrael says

      Phyllis, simple solution of course!
      LoZ, what about disposables? 🙂
      Ruth, I like when a post brings new commenters out of the woodwork! Thanks for visiting. My friend married a vegetarian and their kitchen is dairy. She always says how she intends to teach her daughters to prepare chicken in case they marry meat eaters. For the record, she has a high-level career.

  16. phyllis:

    well we “solved” the problem by going in the other direction. we have only fleishig dishes.

  17. Phyllis, we do the same. My husband and I were both vegetarian, before we met. It was the sensible thing to do, to keep our entire kitchen chalavi.

    My only issue is that my kids won’t know about the halachot of meat and milk, should they live in a mixed household when they are older.

  18. “in case they marry meat eaters”

    in shidduchim people have to be open to all sorts of radical ideas

  19. Regular Anonymous says

    My mother always said “Pareve winds up treyfe” and following her philosophy only my baking equipment, food processor and blender are pareve.

    It does sometimes make me crazy when I look in the fridge and see that I’d have enough leftovers for a meal if I could combine the fleishigs with the milchigs.

  20. the only things in our house that are pareve are the rice cooker and the bread maker. My husband can’t seem to manage to keep anything pareve. It took over a year to convince him that the mayonnaise needed to stay pareve (he uses it for meat sandwiches) so that I could have tuna in dairy dishes.

  21. triLcat, ever since I was a kid I had a thing about the mayonnaise, and not even just because of kashrus. I can’t stand when someone dips a knife in the mayonnaise that had anything else on it. I always use a clean knife or a clean spoon and in my house, if anyone used anything else they would be in big trouble.

  22. mominisrael says

    Tesyaa, I feel the same. It will also make the mayonnaise spoil faster.

  23. (Why am I always the last one to comment? Oy. Somebody, comment after me. Please.)
    This is, to me, a very interesting post; when our kids were little and growing up, we had more fleishig meals. Nowadays, our “default” is milchig, especially since we have only one sink, which we kasher back and forth as needed (I don’t like using ‘shissels,’ but rather a mat).
    Since it’s just mainly the two of us (empty-nested, and missing them…), we have to learn to cook less, and it’s hard.

    Usually, leftover fleishig meals stay in a container in the fridge, to be eaten as a leftover during the week. The same with milchigs. We don’t usually turn it into something else–no kids to whine that we’re having the same thing again–so we’re not so creative this way.

    The only dish which my husband re-creates, is if we have leftover turkey; he often tears it into small pieces, makes a gravy, and serves it hot over noodles.

    We actually have a lot of pareve items in our kitchen: we have a slotted serving spoon and soup ladle, wooden fork, salad servers, spatulas, etc. We also have a deep fryer and stock pot with vegetable insert which is pareve, so that we can cook, say, an eggplant or pasta dish which can then be stored separately and eaten over several days with either meat or dairy meals.

    Our electric mixer and food processor are pareve, but our blender for some reason, is milchig. Go figure.