Kosher pizza, anyone? Those who keep the laws of kemach yashan must check whether their favorite pizza stores certify that the wheat used to bake the pizza is kemach yashan, the Torah law that states that only grains (barley, oats, rye, spelt and wheat) that took root prior to Passover may be consumed in the current year. Jewish law mandates its observance in Israel, while allowing for leniencies outside of Israel. Nonetheless, there are people who observe this law even outside of Israel, and they are facing problems.
The Orthodox Union’s Kashrut Department recently hosted a symposium on kemach yashan. Due to a wheat shortage in the United States this past year, the OU invited several distributors and companies, representatives from different kashrut agencies, and yashan experts to discuss the issues involved and to plan for the coming year.
Coordinated by Rabbi Yosef Herman, a rabbi well-versed in the laws of kemach yashan, the OU’s meeting was primarily to make the foodservice industry aware of the shortage. Several flour distribution companies, such as Dependable Food Corp., DUSO Foods, and Kemach Food Products Corp, sent representatives to the meeting. Manufacturing companies who sent representatives included Cargill and A. Zerega’s Sons, Inc.
The laws of kemach yashan are involved and complex, and this year in particular, have raised significant concern, thanks to the wheat shortage in the United States. Which leads us back to the pizza stores – assuming a store is a kemach yashan pizza store, proprietors need to ensure there is enough yashan wheat to last from the spring wheat crop of Pesach 2007 through Pesach 2009. While only a minority of kosher pizza stores are stringent about these laws, owing to the small number of Jews who keep them, larger Jewish communities usually have a few stores that do.
One suggestion to emerge from the meeting was to use winter wheat for items like pizza or challah and add vital wheat gluten for the desired, soft-baked consistency – because winter wheat is usually good for only crumbly or crispy types of food. Another suggestion was to stock up on the available yashan flour in bulk and store it in a cool area – a necessity as worms and bugs can result in flour that is kept in warm temperature.
Those who interested in inquiring about the laws, contact OU Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi David Gorelik at 212-613-8203.