Indulging L’Mehadrin

Published Summer 2012

Not too long ago, prior to the flood of Jewish children recordings, my children listened to a popular recording of birthday party songs.   One popular song that stands out in my memory is the song beginning with the following lyrics:

Everyone loves ice cream, yes indeed they do,
Everyone loves ice cream, I do – do you?
Search the whole world over travel near and far,
‘Cause everyone loves ice cream, no matter where they are.

How true it is.  This multi-billion dollar industry spans the world near and far.  Furthermore, ice cream has a glorious past and, judging by the surge in sales, ice cream has a rosy future.

Ice cream’s origins can be traced back to the 10th century, where this frozen dairy delicacy was a favorite throughout the Arab world.   “Snow cones” can even be traced back to a thousand years earlier, where people in the Persian Empire would pour grape juice over snow.   Different countries have called ice cream by various names – gelato or sorbet or frozen custard, to name a few.  However, probably the most intriguing name for ice cream is the Hebrew name “g’lida”, which is based on Targum Onkelus’ translation of the description of manna; the manna looked like g’lida!

Ice cream, as we know it, made its modern day appearance in the 18th century in England, and subsequently in the American colonies when the Quakers brought the recipes along with them.   Indeed, Dolly Madison, wife of President James Madison, served ice cream at her husband’s Inaugural Ball.  As a testimonial to the First Lady’s popularizing this delicious confection, a famous brand of ice cream in the U.S. bears her name.  As the years rolled by, new ice cream innovations and innovators continued to appear – from the ice cream soda in the mid-19th century to the waffle cone, which was introduced in the U.S. at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.  Legend has it that the marriage between ice cream and the ice cream cone came about when the ice cream vendor ran out of plates, and the waffle maker thought of an ingenious method to hold the ice cream in place.  This union has endured until today!   Perhaps the most significant factor which catapulted ice cream to its contemporary position of prominence has been the availability of cheap refrigeration.   This facilitated the explosion of modern day ice cream manufacturing.   Companies, like Baskin Robbins, have introduced their famous 31 flavors – one for every day of the month – to over 9,000 locations worldwide.   Actually, Baskin Robbins has developed over 1,000 flavors, most of which are under kosher certification.  Another significant technological advancement was the introduction of soft serve ice cream, a method developed in Britain.  This paved the way for other popular soft serve chains, such as Carvel and Dairy Queen.  We will see how the development of all these delicious novelties have impacted the Cholov Yisroel industry, and how we are able to enjoy all of these delicious varieties of ice cream in regular kosher and Cholov Yisroel varieties.

What is Ice Cream?

In the U.S., in order for a product to qualify as “ice cream”, the formula must contain between 10-16% milk fat.  The higher the milk fat content, the more premium the ice cream.  Other ingredients include sweeteners, milk solids, milk, cream stabilizers and emulsifiers, flavors and air. Yes, air!  Some ice creams can have as much as 50% air!  Soft serve ice cream needs more air to allow its dispensation through a Taylor machine.  Premium ice cream has less air and higher fat content.

There are other dairy and non-dairy ice cream varieties that are defined by their ingredient content.  If the ice cream was produced with less than 10% milk fat, it is called “low fat” ice cream; this used to be known as ice milk. Another lower milk fat variety is gelato, which is sold by Rita’s Italian Ice.  Frozen yogurt is made with low fat or fat free yogurt, and sherbet is made with 1-2% milk fat.

Ices, popsicles, snow cones, slurpees and sorbet are not made with any dairy ingredients.  Similarly, pareve ice creams substitute the dairy components with soy-based and pareve stabilizers, emulsifiers and flavors.

Today, kosher ice cream abounds.  In previous years, the chief kashrus concern in ice cream manufacturing was the use of gelatin.  Gelatin is a colorless and flavorless substance derived from collagen.  The main sources of gelatin are pig skins and cattle bones.  Although gelatin was used to emulfisy, thicken and stabilize the ice cream, today other products such as guar gum, carrageenan, and locust bean gum or agar agar are used in lieu of the non-kosher gelatin.  Furthermore, kosher flavors and kosher emulsifiers have become much more prevalent in the contemporary manufacturing environment, so kosher ice cream manufacturing is no longer a daunting task.

Some poskim maintained that gelatin in ice cream is considered to be a davar hamaamid.1  A davar hamaamid is an integral ingredient used to solidify or give a product body, and can be used as the critical ingredient to create a new entity.  Examples of a davar hamaamid
Nowadays, we see the rise in the number of Cholov Yisroel ice cream and ice cream novelties, such as Dixie cups, Nutty Buddy cones, and ice cream bars of every imaginable size and shape.  How do they do this?  The answer is a careful orchestration between ingredient sources and the widespread emergence of contract manufacturing.

Novel Novelties

Ice cream specialties are no stranger to the ice cream scene.  Sounds of the ice cream truck, with its familiar jingle making its rounds in the neighborhood selling ice cream bars, cones, creamsicles, ice cream sandwiches and popsicles, conjures up fond memories of youth.   If you kept kosher, it would make you jealous because at that time the specialties were not kosher certified.   Years ago, one of my highlights during a trip to London was purchasing a soft serve Cholov Yisroel ice cream cone from Uncle Duvi’s ice cream truck as it made its rounds in Golders Green.   Today, you would be hard pressed to find ice cream novelties without reliable kosher certification.  Furthermore, today one can  purchase the very same novelties produced with cholov stam using cholov Yisroel.  Moreover, there is also a significant market for pareve novelties.   Many years ago, when Giant Foods produced their own ice cream in their Maryland distribution center, the Star-K certified their soy-based pareve product called Dreamy Tofu.  The reason Giant created this product was because the Giant owner at that time, Israel Cohen, was lactose intolerant and wanted some type of lactose-free pareve ice cream dessert.  However, the Dreamy Tofu was not produced on its own pareve equipment; it was produced in the Giant ice cream plant using the same equipment as dairy ice cream.  Although ice cream is produced on cold equipment, the blended Dreamy Tofu mix had to be pasteurized  used for the regular ice cream.

Of course, the pasteurizer had to be prepared for kosherization, drained on Friday, sitting dormant over the weekend so that it would be an aino ben yomo,2and then refilled and kashered with roschin,3 boiling water sent through the system on Monday morning before producing the Dreamy Tofu.  This was an early pareve “ice cream” production in the embryonic days of pareve ice cream, over 25 years ago.

Today, specialty productions abound both in the pareve and cholov Yisroel arenas.  Interestingly, as was the case a quarter of a century ago, these specialty productions take place in regular dairies where special protocols have to be implemented before running the specialty ice cream.  An exception to the rule is Star-K’s famous Pride of the Farm ice cream, which is produced in a totally Cholov Yisroel facility.  In most instances, the dairy has to be willing to produce the cholov Yisroel ice cream specialty productions in the same manner as the Dreamy Tofu run.  There can be no regular weekend productions, draining the pasteurizer and kashering the pasteurizer on Sunday night, or first thing Monday morning before producing the cholov Yisroel ice cream.  The specialty ice creams have to be produced with hashgacha temidis, full time supervision, to ensure that the ingredients are cholov Yisroel-compliant.

There has to be rigorous monitoring of a special inventory of cholov Yisroel-compliant ingredients.  Moreover, the cholov Yisroel has to be carefully guarded.  How are the cholov Yisroel fluid milk, powdered milk, and cholov Yisroel heavycream stored in the event that the ice cream facility stores the fluid cholov Yisroel products in their holding tanks for over 24 hours?  Have arrangements been made to ensure that the milk will not become kovush in the non-cholov Yisroel holding tanks?   Have they been sealed properly if stored in common milk tanks?  Ice cream stabilizers, emulsifiers and additives must be pareve; often, those produced are typically kosher dairy.  Cookies used in Cookies and Cream, ice cream sandwich varieties, cones, or coatings for ice cream bars, have to be kosher pareve.  Are the cookies and cones Pas Yisroel and yoshon?  Do all bear reliable kosher certification?

Flavors, such as the vanilla or butter pecan, are often compatible with the flavors of the regular ice cream produced at the facility.  Some flavors can be kosher certified, while others cannot.  Frozen fruits with no other additives may not be adequately checked for toloyim, insect infestation.  Obviously, full-time hashgacha is mandatory for specialty cholov Yisroel ice cream and pareve productions.

However, not all facilities have the luxury of sitting dormant over the weekend.  It is not uncommon for a dairy to produce 24/7, especially in the spring and summer.  How do kosher certifiers address the issue of a pasteurizer not sitting dormant for 24 hours?  Some hashgachos will permit kashering a ben yomo pasteurizer, a pasteurizer that has not sat dormant for 24 hours.  Instead of letting the pasteurizer rest for 24 hours to create an aino ben yomo,4  the pasteurizer is drained and boiling caustic, a davar hapogem, is sent through the system.  This hot cleanser neutralizes any ben yomo blios, absorptions , and effectively creates a taam pogum status tantamount to an aino ben yomo.  Subsequently, the pasteurizer is sanitized with hot water during the CIP (clean in place) sanitation step, as was done on the Monday morning during aino ben yomo kosherization.  The mashgiach present for the production makes sure that the water reaches roschim, boiling, so that the sanitation step qualifies for kosherization.

Some kashrus organizations will never permit production on ben yomo equipment, and other organizations will only submit to kashering a ben yomo if there is no other alternative;5 b’dieved, others will kasher a ben yomo as their standard operating procedure, l’chatchila.

The pasteurizer is a critical piece of equipment  in any dairy production; it is  used to kill any unwanted microorganisms or bacteria without affecting the liquid that is being pasteurized.  Typically, milk based and juice based products are pasteurized in a dairy.  What about water or water based confections, such as popsicles or ices?  Years ago, when the Star-K produced Pride of the Farms popsicles in the East Coast Novelty company (a company that produces popsicles, ice cream bars and sandwiches), the process was 100% cold based with no pasteurization whatsoever.  Boiled popsicles is an oxymoron; not so today.  Due to fear of bacteria growth, dairies will pasteurize water based ices, as well as their dairy counterparts.  If a company is just producing ices, such as an Italian ice company, there is no problem producing a water-based pareve ice; either a Pareve designation or no special designation at all will appear after the hechsher, kosher symbol.  However, if an ice cream dairy is used for the water-based novelties production, often the ices bear a “D” or “DE” designation after the hechsher, which indicatesthat the product has been pasteurized on a dairy pasteurizer that was not kosherized.  Halachically speaking, these popsicles can be eaten after eating meat; one may not eat the “DE” popsicle together with meat.6 However, those cholov Yisroel adherents would not accept popsicles produced on cholov stam equipment, and they would not eat water-based pareve ices with the  “D” or “DE” declaration.7

Years ago in Eretz Yisroel, purchasing quality ice cream was a near impossibility.  In fact, in the winter one could not find ice cream anywhere.  Who eats ice cream in the winter?   A cream-filled chocolate covered cone was called glida chama, literally ‘hot ice cream’, and was sold in the winter; ice cream or water ices were nowhere to be found.  Ice cream was sold in the summer.  Its quality and taste was nowhere near its American counterpart.

This is not the case in contemporary Eretz Yisroel!  True, you can still purchase crembos in the winter, however, ice cream has taken on a life of its own in Israel.  Today’s Israeli ice cream venue includes quality products, both dairy and pareve, from world-class manufacturers with world-class labels in world-class varieties.  The quality of Israeli ice cream has risen exponentially.  World-class labels, such as Nestles with a full line of premium products, grace the Israeli marketplace, and a branch of a certain popular premium ice cream shop has also opened a branch in Boro Park.

However, the kosher consumer may not be aware that the very same Israeli ice cream product can be produced in mehadrin and non-mehadrim forms, both in the exact same wrapper; only the hechsher symbols are different.  In chareidi neighborhoods, ice cream novelties will bear a mehadrin hechsher in addition to the regular Rabbanut hechsher on the wrapper.  Furthermore, in regard to specific chareidi neighborhoods, different mehadrin hechshairim will appear on the label depending upon the marketability of the product.  Moreover, even though the ingredient panel is the same, the sources of supply may differ.  Although all of the fluid milk sold in Israel is technically considered cholov Yisroel,  there are fundamental differences between mehadrin and non-mehadrin fluid milk.  Non-mehadrin fluid milk may be purchased from farms that are mechalel Shabbos; mehadrin milk does not come from those farms.  That translated into mehadrin and non-mehadrin fluid milk and heavy cream.  Moreover, it is not unusual to see on a non-mehadrin ingredient panel “avkat cholov nochri ,” which means non-cholov Yisroel powdered milk.  The Israeli Chief Rabbinate will permit this product to be used, based on a teshuva from Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, zt”l, former Chief Rav of Yerushalayim.  The policy of the Chief Rabbinate does not endorse imported ice cream products sold using cholov stam fluid milk, although cholov stam ice cream products are being sold in Eretz YisroelCaveat Emptor!

Indeed, the kosher and mehadrin kosher ice cream availability abounds in our global economy, Baruch Hashem.  With a little education, a consumer can enjoy these delicious treats guilt-free l’mehadrin.


1.Sefer Tiferes Tzvi, Kuntrus B’inyan Gelatin

2.Y.D. Siman 103:5, Mechaber

3.Orach Chaim Siman 452:1 & 2, Rema MB:1

4.Y.D. Siman 95:4

5. Ibid, Shach 21

6.Y.D. Siman 89:3, Rema

7.Y.D. Siman 95,  due to the fact that they consider the equipment a  Na”t Bar Na”t D’isura.